DUBAI: The US is sending a powerful warship and state-of-the art fighter jets to help defend the UAE after a series of missile attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen.
The deployment, to “assist the UAE against the current threat,” follows a phone call between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi said.
Austin and the crown prince “discussed the recent Houthi attacks against the UAE that caused civilian casualties and also threatened US and Emirati armed forces stationed at Al-Dhafra air base,” the embassy said.
Under the new arrangements, the guided missile destroyer USS Cole will partner with the UAE Navy and make a port call in Abu Dhabi, and the US will also deploy fifth-generation warplanes.
Other actions include “continuing to provide early warning intelligence and collaborating on air defense,” the embassy said.
It said the US was a staunch ally of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and the deployment was intended to be “a clear signal that the US stands with the UAE as a long-standing strategic partner.”
Three expatriate workers, two from India and one from Pakistan, were killed in a Houthi drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi’s oil storage facilities and airport on Jan. 17, triggering a salvo of deadly airstrikes in retaliation.
On Jan. 24, US forces stationed at Al-Dhafra air base in Abu Dhabi fired Patriot interceptors and scrambled to bunkers as two ballistic missiles were shot down over the city. A third missile attack was thwarted on Monday, during a visit to the UAE by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
The Houthi attacks have increased tensions in the Gulf as international talks over Iran’s nuclear program stall.
The attacks on the UAE began after the Houthis suffered a series of military defeats in Yemen at the hands of the Giants Brigades, loyalist fighters armed and trained by the UAE. In early January, the Houthis also seized a UAE-flagged medical supply ship in the Red Sea.
In early January, the rebels seized a UAE-flagged ship in the Red Sea, saying it was carrying weapons — a claim denied by the Emirates.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Houthis seized Sanaa, prompting forces from Saudi Arabia and other countires to intervene to prop up the government the following year.