Graham urges Obama to retaliate after missiles fired at US Navy ship

Graham urges Obama to retaliate after missiles fired at US Navy ship
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless MORE (R-S.C.) on Monday called for the Obama administration to "retaliate swiftly and decisively" against the Houthi rebels who fired two missiles at a U.S. ship off the coast of Yemen. 

"If two missiles were fired by the Iranian-proxy Houthi rebels at an American destroyer, it is imperative that the Obama Administration retaliate swiftly and decisively. An attack on a U.S. warship that goes unanswered only invites further aggression," the senator said in a statement.  

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The USS Mason was stationed off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea, in international waters, when it was fired upon Sunday evening by two missiles within 60 minutes from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, according to a Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis. 

A U.S. defense official said both missiles landed in the water, though the ship took defensive measures in the first instance. The official said it is unclear whether the defensive measures led to the first missile landing in the water. 

There would typically be 380 officers and enlisted personnel aboard the USS Mason. 

Graham also called for the U.S. to hold Iran accountable when "groups they empower" take aggressive action toward U.S. personnel. 

Iran has supported the Houthi rebels in their takeover of Yemen's capital in September 2014, which ousted the government from Sanaa. The U.S. joined a Saudi-led Arab coalition backing the government in March 2015, lending logistical and intelligence support. 

Iranian naval forces have harassed U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf in what the U.S. calls an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner on 32 occasions so far this year, a dramatic uptick from 24 all of last year.  

Graham blamed Sunday's missile firings against the USS Mason on the administration relieving sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear deal, allowing it to support proxy fighters throughout the region such as the Houthis. 

"The Obama Administration supporting relieving sanctions against Iran, which has enriched the Ayatollah and has made Iran an even bigger nightmare for the region. Without a strong response from President Obama, we can expect more aggression towards U.S. interests from Iranian sponsored groups," Graham said.