The American predicament in the Aggression on Yemen

Zakaria Al-Sharabi

The US of America did not face a narrowness in military options, as is the case in its battle in support of Israel against Yemen, because reality has changed contrary to American intentions to the extent that Washington is now engaging in this war, as described by the American writer close to Biden, Thomas Friedman, as a shadow war and does not want to acknowledge it as an overt war.

Biden’s opponents attribute the American failure to deter the Yemeni armed forces from their attacks in support of Palestine to a failure in the US administration’s strategy. They blame Biden for removing the Ansar Allah movement from the list of terrorist organizations. However, this judgment goes no further than political disputes on the eve of the 2024 elections. It goes beyond the limits of American power and the changes that have occurred in the region and the world. It also overlooks a fundamental and important factor related to the ideology of the adversary that the United States is facing.

Briefing on US inventory:

Americans are currently discussing an asymmetrical war. Despite the fact that the United States represents the stronger party in terms of weaponry, it is also the most vulnerable and susceptible to targeting and attrition. Its adversaries, who possess low-cost weapons, are capable of inflicting harm and causing it pain, while the cost of its defense is greater, as its defense stockpile has been depleted in Ukraine and more recently in the war on Gaza. Pentagon officials are now sounding the alarm about the lack of sufficient resources to engage in any potential confrontation with China. According to reports, the US missiles launched by Ukraine are three times the volume of American production. Furthermore, Israel used more ammunition in six days than the Pentagon’s purchases throughout the year 2023.

The depletion of American inventories and defense expenditures of the United States has brought attention to the losses incurred in the aggression against Yemen. The losses in offensive and defensive operations, as well as losses in the Red Sea positioning, top the list of concerns.

The United States initiated its aggression against Yemen on January 12th, with the first operation involving over 80 Tomahawk missiles, according to a statement from the US Central Command. This number of missiles equals more than half of the annual production of Tomahawk missiles in the United States. With an estimation of the number of missiles used in subsequent strikes, including strikes on the same day labeled as a continuation of the first operation and another operation on February 3rd described by the United States as a wide-scale strike on 36 targets, American officials stated that Tomahawk missiles were among the weapons used.

According to the lowest estimates, the number of Tomahawk missiles used reaches 100. This means that the United States has only used 8% of its total purchased missiles in the past decade, which amounts to 1,234 missiles. Additionally, 74% of the missiles used were purchased within the last two years (55 missiles in 2023 and 70 missiles in 2022).

The cost of each Tomahawk missile is approximately $2 million, which means that the cost of launching these missiles in the three operations is close to $200 million.

In addition to these launches of Tomahawk missiles, aircraft operations in the aggression operations against Yemen are also conducted, utilizing various missiles such as the SLAM-ER missile, which is used to target surface-launched missiles and costs around $3 million per missile. There are also AGM-88 HARM missiles, which are anti-radiation missiles, with each missile costing around $870,000.

The Cost of Defense at Sea:

According to American reports, the first interception operation of missiles and drones began on October 19, where the USS Carney ship successfully intercepted 4 cruise missiles and 15 drones, as reported by US officials cited by CNN. Following that, the American newspaper Politico revealed that the United States uses missiles valued at $2 million each to intercept a drone worth $2,000. As for ballistic missiles, Commander of US Central Command, Eric Kurella, stated that the only defensive system capable of intercepting them is the SM-6 missile, with a cost of $4.3 million per missile, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance website.

And CBS network, which aired reports from aboard the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhauer stationed in the Red Sea and interviewed key commanders of the US Fifth Fleet and US Central Command, confirmed that the cost of some American defensive missiles can reach $4 million. By February 1, over 100 defensive missiles had been launched, and since then, the US Central Command announced the interception of approximately 70 missiles, drones, one-way boats, and submarines. The United States has reported hundreds of operations since then.

The announced numbers do not represent the exact final figure, as the United States generally does not specify the number of attacks (requiring verification and official Yemeni figures on the number of airstrikes).

Operational Costs:

The Pentagon estimated that the unplanned support costs for operations in the Middle East during the 120-day period between October and January amounted to $1.6 billion. This includes $29.2 million for military personnel costs, $708.6 million for operations and maintenance, $528.4 million for procurement, $51.9 million for research, development, testing, and evaluation, and $248.5 million for transportation, drawn from the Department of Transportation’s working capital fund. Officials stated that these costs involve deploying and maintaining warships, fighter aircraft, and additional equipment in the region over the past four months. They noted that this does not include the cost of missiles launched by the US military to strike Yemen or intercept drones and missiles in the Red Sea, because there is insufficient data available at this time to make these calculations.

During a budget hearing, Commander of US Central Command, Eric Kurella, was asked if there was an initial estimate of losses in Red Sea operations, to which he responded in the negative. When questioned about the consumption of weapons that were supposed to be reserved for any confrontation with China, Kurella stated that there is a need to increase the production of defense systems. He emphasized that currently, in order to preserve ships and sailors the only means to shoot down ballistic missiles is the SM-6 missile.

Kurella declined to publicly provide a list of ammunition used in the Red Sea.

Fatigued Soldiers and Warships in Need of Doubled Maintenance:

American reports indicate that soldiers and ships are operating at a higher intensity than necessary. Recently, due to continuous demand, aircraft carriers have had their deployments extended for three periods without maintenance, resulting in repercussions on the capabilities of American naval vessels and requiring an extended maintenance period. For example, the maintenance period for the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier took 14 months after two consecutive deployments without maintenance.

A report in the American Time magazine highlights that American sailors are becoming sailors in name only, as their naval competencies and mindset weaken due to prolonged service without shore leave.

In the Red Sea, the commander of the USS Eisenhauer aircraft carrier spoke in mid-February about the constant combat pace in the Red Sea, with no days off even during port visits, negatively affects the sailors. This was confirmed by Navy personnel who spoke to The Washington Post.

This discussion sheds light on the withdrawal of the United States Marine Corps’ 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, consisting of 4,000 troops, who were deployed in the region before the Al-Aqsa flood and had their presence extended due to the Yemeni operations before they were forced to be withdrawn. It should be noted that there are no plans to replace them due to the continuous shortage of available amphibious ships overseen by the Navy.

Resourceful Adversaries:

In the midst of this battle, the United States realizes the high level of risk involved. According to CNN, American officials state that Yemen continues to surprise US forces, with the Americans having no idea about the Yemenis’ remaining capabilities. The commander of a group in the naval forces in the Red Sea also said, “The Houthis “They have proven to be resourceful adversaries.

Brad Cooper mentioned that it takes only seconds for a Yemeni missile to reach its target, further exacerbating the danger.

US military leaders repeatedly acknowledge the difficulty of the battle, describing it as unprecedented and relentless. While Cooper characterized Yemen’s use of ballistic missiles to target ships as a precedent not seen since World War II, Captain Dave Rowe, leading the four US Navy destroyers providing additional protection for the aircraft carrier, stated that Yemen posed the greatest challenge to the US Navy in recent history. He pointed out that the number of missiles and drones launched at the US Navy is the highest since World War II, which was the last time the United States operated in an area where it could be fired upon daily.

In the same context, an aviation officer who worked in the US Navy for more than 30 years spoke, saying that the sorties he performed were the largest during his career.

Recognition of Failure and Confusion in Options:

US officials acknowledge that the desired goal of the aggression against Yemen has not been achieved, that Yemeni operations continue, and that none of the measures have succeeded in deterring them, including designating Ansar Allah as a terrorist group on the US list.

Desperation is evident in the unprecedented statements of US military leaders. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the commander of the Eisenhower aircraft carrier was asked if it was possible to achieve the US goal by halting all Yemeni operations. He responded that it is difficult to say that it is possible and that “it is difficult to determine winning and losing in this type of conflict.”

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