Yemeni Houthis Shoot Down US Reaper Over Red Sea, the White House Response Is Crickets

Iran’s Houthi proxy army in Yemen shot down a USAF MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance drone while it was flying over international waters on Wednesday.

The Defense Department did not officially confirm the loss but sent out spokesmen to confirm the event happened. No information was offered on where the Reaper was launched, or its mission, but a good guess would be that it was launched from Chabelly Airport in Djibouti and was conducting surveillance in support of US operations associated with the Israel-Hamas War.

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group, the Batan Amphibious Ready Group, and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were in the operational area but were not involved in this action.

The $32 million MQ-9 Reaper is the mainstay of US drone operations and can be configured for either reconnaissance or strike operations.

This is the third Reaper shot down by the Houthis. On October 2, 2017, a Predator in strike role was shot down over Sanaa, Yemen. On June 6, 2019, the Houthi used an SA-6 surface-to-air missile to shoot down a Reaper over Dhamar, Yemen. 

The New York Post tried to fly top cover for Biden (US hits weapons depot in Syria after Iran proxies down drone off Yemen) by making a fatuous and impossible link between the airstrike on Iranian logistics nodes in Eastern Syria and the Reaper shootdown (BREAKING: US Airstrikes Carried Out Against Iranian Facility in Syria). Both Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and an “unnamed senior official” made it clear that the bombing strike was in response to at least 41 Iranian-backed attacks on US forces in Syria and Iraq.

Today, at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense strike on a facility in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups. This strike was conducted by two U.S. F-15s against a weapons storage facility. This precision self-defense strike is a response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates.

The loss of the Reaper wasn’t acknowledged until two hours after Austin announced the airstrike, making any linkage between the two all but impossible. This is the “unnamed senior defense official” talking about the Reaper shootdown.

Q:  Oh, sorry.  Can we assume that there were Iranians at the base?  And secondly, what is response or will there be a response to the shooting down of an MQ-9 by the Houthis?
SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  So, Jen — so we don’t know the nationalities of the individuals that were on the ground.  As (Senior Defense Official) mentioned, we know that the IRGC uses this location to store weapons, but I can’t tell you if there are Iranians on the ground or not.
In terms of your second question, you know, we are certainly concerned about the fact that the Yemenis shut down an MQ-9, and we’ll continue to have conversations about that as we go forward.

What makes this shootdown different are two things. Most important, the Reaper was in international airspace over international waters. This is entirely different than flying over Yemen. That said, the shootdown of those two Reapers should’ve unleashed a total s**t-storm of bombing, but we can’t “escalate,” can we? Secondly, this appears to be an action by an Iranian proxy to assist another Iranian proxy in a war in which both the US and Iran are opposing undeclared combatants.

Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have made it very clear that their principal objective in the region is to restart negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapon access and continue with the strategy of developing Iran as a regional superpower. The Biden White House has made it clear that it has the back of Iranian proxies. For instance, Biden rescinded Trump’s recognition of Israel’s control of the Golan Heights in favor of Hezbollah…because if you think there is a government in Lebanon other than Hezbollah, you should lay off the meth (Biden Backdoors Israel in the UN, Rescinding Trump’s Recognition of Sovereignty over the Golan)…and strongarming into a disadvantageous maritime borders demarcation that hands Hezbollah oil and gas fields while Israel gets an agreement (Unpacking Israel and Lebanon’s historic maritime border deal).

The shootdown of a USAF drone in international airspace by Houthi should have been met by a massive air and missile strike targeting every known Houthi anti-aircraft and radar installation. This was a test, and we failed. We had the opportunity to send a signal of strength, and we sent one of weakness. All we have done is encourage bad behavior by Iran, and you can be sure they will deliver.

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