The Pentagon has deployed the USS Cole, a Navy destroyer, to the Yemeni coast near Bab al-Mandab Strait, to loiter in the area and “protect waterways” amid the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen. Officials are presenting the move as support for the Saudis, after Shi’ite Houthis attacked a Saudi ship off the base.
US officials have said it was conceivable that the Houthis thought they were attacking a US warship, though since the Houthis have been at war with Saudis since the Saudi invasion two years ago, it’s not at all clear why that might’ve been. Officials have also implied this has something to do with Iran, though such Iran-Yemen links always rest exclusively on them being Shi’ites, albeit a different sort of Shi’ites.
That they presented the targeted Saudi frigate as aimed at the US suggests the USS Cole is being sent in no small part with an eye toward it drawing such an attack from the Houthis as well, potentially giving the US a pretext for a deeper involvement in the Saudi invasion than the substantial involvement the US already has.
The USS Cole has experience as a target for attack off the Yemeni coast, having been hit by an al-Qaeda attack in the harbor of the port city of Aden in 2000, an attack which killed 17 sailors.