- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

An American warship stationed off the coast of Yemen again came under fire from rebel-controlled areas in the country less than a day after the Pentagon indicated it was considering retaliatory strikes into the war-torn Middle East nation.

A cruise missile was launched at the USS Mason, an American guided-missile destroyer steaming off the Yemeni coastline, as it was conducting routine operations in the region, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters late Wednesday.

The crew of the U.S. warship “detected at least one missile that we assess originated from Houthi-controlled territory near Al Hudaydah, roughly 180 miles southwest of Sanaa, Mr. Cook said in a statement. The ethnic Houthi forces are battling ousted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in a civil war that broke out last year, and Saudi Arabia, with U.S. military support, has intervened on behalf of Mr. Hadi.

The missile failed to reach its mark after crew members launched anti-missile weapons aboard the Mason, he said, adding that neither the American ship nor its sailors were harmed in the attack.

The attempted missile strike on the Mason is the second in as many weeks emanating from territory held by Houthi forces, who are backed by Iran.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter vaguely acknowledged that U.S. commanders in the region were considering counterstrikes against Houthi-held territory inside Yemen.

American adversaries in Yemen and elsewhere “ought to understand that is a capability the U.S. has, and that is all I’ll say on that,” he said during a briefing concluding a daylong regional security symposium with South and Central American allies in Trinidad.

Pentagon officials were “absolutely right” to assert the notion that U.S. forces can and will use lethal force in self-defense when attacked, he said.

Two missiles were fired at the Mason from roughly the same area late last week, the Pentagon confirmed Monday. Neither of the missiles hit the ship. Reports said one of the two missiles was destroyed in midflight by the Mason and the other fell short of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

Pentagon officials said they were still trying to determine whether the attack was carried out by Houthi rebels.

Separately, U.S. officials on Wednesday played down the growing war of words between allies Iraq and Turkey. The clash is threatening to spark new conflict between the countries as Washington and Baghdad prepare their assault on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.

“There are diplomatic efforts ongoing to address” the increasing animosity between Turkey and Iraq ahead of the Mosul assault, Col. John Dorrian, the top U.S. spokesman in Iraq, said Wednesday.

Those tensions, he said, would not interfere with the final planning for the Iraqi-led offensive on the country’s second-largest city. Col. Dorrian brushed aside questions on whether Turkish troops in northern Iraq, numbering about 2,000, would take part in the Mosul operation.

“Any group that wants to fight [the Islamic State group] should do so only with the permission of the government of Iraq,” he said. It’s unlikely Ankara will receive such permission, given the harsh rhetoric between the two nations in recent days.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said this week that a continued presence of Turkish forces inside the country would spark a conflict in the volatile northern provinces.

In a speech Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to keep his troops in Iraq, saying the Iraqi leader should “know his place” when it comes to the ongoing power struggle in the region.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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