Saudi Arabia urges US to remain calm as Houthis attack ships in Red Sea

  • Yemen’s Houthis attacked the ship and opened fire on Israel
  • Worried about escalation, Riyadh has so far been pleased with the US response
  • Houthis discuss their role in Tehran meeting – Source

RIYADH/DUBAI, Dec 6 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has urged the United States to exercise restraint in responding to attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on ships in the Red Sea. Hamas-Israel war.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have plunged into the conflict that has spread across the Middle East since the war broke out on October 7, attacking ships along key shipping lanes and firing drones and missiles at Israel.

The group that rules much of Yemen says its attacks are a show of support for the Palestinians and has vowed they will continue until Israel halts its offensive in the Gaza Strip – more than 1,000 miles from their seat of power in Sanaa.

The Houthis are one of several groups in an Iran-aligned “axis of resistance” that has been attacking Israeli and US targets since the start of the conflict on October 7, when their Palestinian ally Hamas attacked Israel and triggered the war.

Their role has added to regional risks of conflict, threatening sea lanes through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, and alarming states in the Red Sea as Houthi rockets and drones fly toward Israel.

Riyadh, the world’s top oil exporter, watched warily as Houthi missiles were launched over its territory.

As the Houthis have stepped up attacks on shipping in recent weeks, two sources familiar with Saudi thinking said the message aimed to avoid further escalation of Riyadh’s control over Washington. The sources added that Riyadh is so far happy with the way the US is handling the situation.

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“They pressed the Americans on this and why they should stop the Gaza conflict,” one of the sources said.

The White House declined to comment.

The Saudi government did not respond to an emailed request for comment on the discussions.

As Saudi Arabia pushes for a ceasefire in what it calls the “barbaric war” in Gaza, its diplomacy reflects a broader policy aimed at promoting regional stability after years of conflict with Iran and its allies.

Focused on expanding and diversifying the Saudi economy, Riyadh normalized ties with Tehran this year and seeks to exit a nearly nine-year war with the Houthis in Yemen.

The sources said Saudi Arabia is trying to advance the Yemeni peace process even as the war rages in Gaza, which could be derailed. Yemen has enjoyed more than a year of peace amid direct peace talks between Saudi and Houthi officials.

Attacks by the Houthis during the Hamas-Israeli war include the Iran-aligned camp of Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

The Houthis have emerged as the largest military force in the Arabian Peninsula, with tens of thousands of fighters and the largest arsenal of ballistic missiles and armed drones.

Senior sources in the Iran-aligned camp told Reuters the Houthi attacks were part of an effort to pressure Washington to end its Gaza offensive on Israel, a strategy Iran shares with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.

One of the sources in Tehran said Houthi representatives discussed their attacks with Iranian officials during a November meeting in Tehran and agreed to take steps in a “controlled” way to help end the Gaza war. . Aadhaar has been explained in this regard.

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Another source said Tehran was not seeking “all-out war in the region” that would risk dragging it outright.

A Houthi spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Iran has denied any involvement in the attack. Iranian officials did not respond to a request for comment on the Houthi attacks.

Destroyer drops drones

The US and Britain have condemned the attacks on the shipping, blaming Iran’s role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.

In one of the latest incidents, three merchant ships were attacked in international waters on Sunday. The Houthis said they fired at what they said were two Israeli ships. Israel denied any involvement with the ships.

A U.S. Navy destroyer, the Carney, shot down three drones that responded to distress calls from ships that the U.S. military said were linked to 14 separate countries.

The Pentagon said Monday that Carney took action because the drone was headed in its direction, but could not assess whether the warship was the intended target.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh stopped short of using language that could suggest any immediate US retaliation against the Houthis. Asked if the US would retaliate, Singh said: “If it decides to take action against the Houthis, it will certainly be at a time and place of our choosing.”

An Iranian diplomatic official said Tehran and Washington have exchanged messages through intermediaries about Houthi attacks since the start of the Hamas-Israel war. The diplomat, who was engaged in exchanging messages, appealed to the two to remain calm.

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Iran on Tuesday denied any role in attacks or operations against US forces.

Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; Written by Tom Perry; Editing by Alison Williams

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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