US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that he believes Iran was behind missile strikes on US Navy ships fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.
“I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that,” said Votel at the Center for American Progress, The Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.
Iran does have a history of harassing US ships in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iran even went to the extreme length of taking US sailors captive after their ships broke down in Iranian national waters.
While experts have indicated to Business Insider that Iran likely supplied the Houthis with the missiles used in three separate attacks on US Navy ships, Votel’s comments mark perhaps the first time a US official has laid the blame on Iran.
After the US struck the radar sites used by the Houthis, an armed uprising battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi,Iranian vessels rushed to the waters off of Yemen under the premise of protecting “trade vessels from piracy.”
If Iran does prove to be behind the missiles attacks, it’s possible that the US’s limited and defensive strikes have not addressed the larger problem.
Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that the Obama administration “doesn’t want to get dragged into another Middle East conflict, but [it’s] also an administration that is phobic of clashing with Iran-sponsored actors,” as it tries to preserve the fragile nuclear deal with Iran.