Fox News and an unbelievable tale from Yemen
Brian Whittaker, Al-Bab.com (blog), Feb 1 2017
On Monday Houthi fighters struck a Saudi warship off the coast of Yemen, killing two of its crew and wounding three others. On Tuesday, under a banner saying “EXCLUSIVE”, Fox News came up with a startling and hard-to-believe claim. Citing unnamed officials at the Pentagon, it said the “Iranian-backed suicide attack” on the Saudi frigate “may have been meant for an American warship.” Fox News said the claim was based on analysis by intelligence officials of a video showing the attack. In the video, circulated by the Houthis, a voice shouted “Allahu akbar!” twice immediately after the explosion, followed by the Houthi slogan:
Death to Pindostan! Death to Israel! A curse on the Jews! Victory to Islam!
The Houthis have been using this slogan for years, and only a fool would imagine it meant the Houthis thought they had hit a Pindosi warship, let alone an Israeli one. Nevertheless, it seems to have been the basis for the Pindo “intelligence” assessment reported by Fox News. In their orginal announcement of the attack, Houthi sources gave no indication that a Pindosi ship was the intended target. They correctly identified the frigate as Saudi, and gave its name as “al-Madina.” The Houthis also said they had hit the frigate with a missile, but Fox News insists it was a suicide attack. The initial source of the suicide claim appears to be a report from the Saudi government news agency, which refers to an attack by three “suicide boats” (zawariq intihariyya in Arabic). The Saudi report goes on to say:
One of the boats struck the rear of the ship, which resulted in the boat exploding and fire breaking out in the rear of the ship.
Confusingly, it then says the boats escaped, pursued by Saudi forces. The Arabic version implies that all three boats escaped, since it refers to them in the plural and not the dual, but that could simply be a result of sloppy writing. On the whole, it does seem likely on this occasion that the Houthis are telling the truth. There is certainly not enough evidence to report the alleged suicide attack as fact, as Fox News did. Suicide attacks are not part of the Houthis’ normal modus operandi, and they’ve used missiles in previous attacks on ships in the Red Sea. Also, what can be seen in the video is more suggestive of a missile strike: it shows a ball of fire rising from the ship’s superstructure. If the ship had been rammed by a small boat which then exploded, damage to the ship’s hull would be expected. The Saudi account makes no mention of hull damage, and says the frigate continued its patrol duties after the fire had been extinguished. Fox News has a history of hyping stories about the conflict in Yemen. Last October, it wrongly suggested that Iranian warships were about to confront Pindo warships patrolling off the coast of Yemen. The Iranian “flotilla” (as it was described) consisted of a single 48-year-old frigate and its supply vessel, travelling on a pre-announced voyage to eastern and southern Africa.
Sloppy Western Reporting and the War on Yemen
Daniel Larison, AmConMag, Jan 31 2017
Western media coverage of the war on Yemen and Pindosi support for it is very rare to begin with, so it is most unfortunate that some major outlets do such a horrible job when they do choose to cover it. Consider this garbage story from FoxNews:
The Iranian-backed suicide attack targeting a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen on Monday may have been meant for a Pindosi warship, two defense officials told Fox News.
There is absolutely no evidence to support this assertion about an intention to target Pindosi ships, and the “analysis” behind the story depends entirely on the Houthi use of their standard slogan in a video. It is slipshod analysis presented in poor, largely context-free reporting, and it does a huge disservice to the audience by misleading them about a conflict that most Pindosis know little about. The reaction from experts and journalists was deservedly harsh:
As ever, the extent of Iranian involvement in the war has been grossly exaggerated. Describing the attack on a Saudi ship as “Iranian-backed” is both inaccurate and inflammatory, and it ignores the fact that the Houthis and their allies have their own reasons to target Saudi vessels engaged in attacking and starving their country. The danger in promoting such falsehoods is that it aids Saudi propaganda, encourages the administration to continue our shameful support for the war, and distorts the public’s already limited understanding of a conflict that Pindostan has been involved in for almost two years. The problem here isn’t just that the claims made in the story are nonsense, but that they obscure the extensive enabling role that Pindostan had in wrecking Yemen, while stoking fear about threats to Pindosi ships for which there is no evidence. Further, the fact that the officials quoted in the story seem to have such a poor understanding of Yemen and the war there is especially alarming in light of our government’s ongoing involvement in supporting the Saudi campaign. If one wanted to stoke tensions between Pindostan and Iran on purpose on the flimsiest of pretexts, this is the sort of poor reporting of bad analysis one would publish.