Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Politics

Secret U.S. Military Presence in Yemen Adds a Twist to Houthi Attack on Israel

If the Israel–Hamas war spreads to Yemen, U.S. Special Operations troops stationed there could create geopolitical complications.

As the war between Israel and Hamas threatens to draw in Yemen, the United States military’s little noted boots on the ground in the war-torn country raise the specter of deepening American involvement in the conflict.

On Monday, Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired ballistic and cruise missiles at Israel. The attack marked the first time ballistic missiles have been launched at Israel since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fired Scud missiles at Israel in 1991, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and expert on the region. The use of ballistic missiles represents a major escalation that threatens to ignite a regional war — with American troops stationed nearby.

“The best strategy to avoid getting sucked into another war in the Middle East is to not have troops unnecessarily in the region in the first place — and bring those who are there now home,” said Trita Parsi, the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a Washington think tank that advocates for a restrained foreign policy. “Their presence there is not making America more safe, it’s putting America more at risk of yet another war in the Middle East.”

Though the size of the American special operations footprint inside Yemen has ebbed and flowed — the U.S. has been at war there since 2000 — the White House revealed in June that the U.S. maintains “combat” troops in Yemen. “United States military personnel are deployed to Yemen to conduct operations against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS,” the White House disclosed in a previously unreported passage of its most recent War Powers Resolution report to Congress.

The Houthis are not listed as an official target of the U.S. special forces mission in Yemen, but the Pentagon has used its authorities under the war on the Islamic State to strike at Iranian-backed groups elsewhere. Last week, the U.S. bombed two facilities linked to Iranian-backed militias in Syria in retaliation for attacks on U.S. installations in the region by militant groups supported by Iran. 

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