Iranian-backed Houthi rebels working to take power in Yemen are using a new weapon that is raising fears of seaborne attacks on both military and commercial shipping in the region.
The weapon is an Iranian-designed remotely piloted small boat filled with explosives, a defense official told Inside the Ring.
The exact number of the explosive drone boats is not known, but the rebels are believed to have enough to threaten ships that pass through the strategic sea lanes off the Yemeni coast. The Navy has intelligence photos of the deadly boats but declined a request to release them. The boats were first detected after one was used in an attack Jan. 30 on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea.
Iran is backing Houthi rebels as part of a strategy of seeking to encircle its rival, Saudi Arabia, and ultimately to take control of the peninsula.
One strategic objective of the Iranians is to control the strategic Bab el-Mandeb or Mandeb Strait on the southern Red Sea that is a major shipping passage.
Iran already has a major influence in Iraq and in the past has threatened to shut down shipping in the Persian Gulf by targeting traffic passing through the Hormuz Strait.