Iran Fights for Control of Key Bab Al-Mandeb Strait with C-802 Missiles Fired by Yemeni Proxy

A major, undisclosed episode hangs from the laconic United Arab Emirates statement on Oct. 1 that one of its civilian ships had been attacked by Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources can report that the vessel attacked, far from being civilian, was a UAE high-speed Australian HSV-2 Swift logistics catamaran that was carrying wounded Emirates and Yemeni soldiers from the battlefield in Yemen. It came under fire when it passed through the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Straits, the link between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, after being shadowed by a Houthi dhow collecting targeting data.
The catamaran, once used by the US Military Sealift Command, is on lease to the UAE.
Our sources also identify the many-named weapon used for the attack as a C-802 (NATO-named CSS-N-8), a Chinese anti-ship missile called YJ-8, which Iran upgraded as the Saccade, under the eye of Chinese engineers.
Tehran has shared this missile, which has a range of 120km (see map), with Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah. The incident in the Strait of Bab Al-Mandeb exposed Tehran has having also supplied it to the Yemeni Houthis – specifically to its closest proxy, the Ansar Allah faction – although repeatedly denying having done so the Obama administration and Saudi Arabia.
The presence of the C-802 in this vicinity, with Tehran’s permission for its use by Yemeni insurgents, is a game changer – and not merely for the Yemen war; it constitutes a new, direct Iranian menace to shipping routes in the Persian Gulf, the Straits of Hormuz, the Gulf of Aden, Bab al-Mandeb and the Red Sea, and a challenge to the fleets of the US, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Israel, which operate regularly in these waters.
Millions of barrels of oil crossing the world pass through the 20km wide Bab al-Mandeb strait day by day. Not long before the attack on the UAE vessel, on Sept.14, the Chinese Hong Ze Hu and Cho Hu tankers were detained opposite the Yemen coast south of Hodeida and, shortly after, released.
Contrary to the UAE’s claim that the catamaran was just damaged and managed to continue on its voyage, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report that it was set on fire by a multi-missile barrage and almost completely consumed by the flames. A tugboat arrived from the Eritrean port of Assab, where the UAE has a base to for the maintenance, refueling and armament of its ships, and towed the crippled ship away.
Nothing was disclosed about casualties that were bound to be heavy.
Just hours after this disaster, the US Naval Forces Central Command in the Gulf sent three guided-missile destroyers off the coast of Yemen. The USS Nitze (DDG-94), the USS Mason (DDG-87), now on station near the Bab al-Mandeb, with the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB1)-15, are capable of destroying incoming cruise missiles.
Tuesday, Oct. 4, the Saudi Navy, in coordination with CENTCOM, launched a series of drills, dubbed Gulf Shield 1, in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz. This is the largest sea exercise the Saudis have ever conducted.
Tehran, in its turn, reacted the next day with a Revolutionary Guards warning that the crossing of any Saudi warships participating in the drills “is unacceptable” and “We warn these ships against entering the territorial waters or entering international waters near Iranian waters.”
But will Tehran follow up on its warning with more military action? Or order another Houthi missile attack? Answers are tensely awaited.

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