US Marine General Frank McKenzie arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for talks on efforts to help bolster the Gulf state’s defences after a series of missile attacks launched by Iran-backed Houthi from Yemen.

In recent weeks, the Houthis have launched an unprecedented string of largely failed missiles strikes on UAE targets that have triggered Emirati air defences.

According to experts, the attacks have thrown a spotlight on Iran’s use of proxies to destabilise the Gulf region as well as the unsuccessful UN-led efforts to broker an end to the war in Yemen, which since 2015 has pitted the Houthis against a Saudi Arabian-led military coalition that includes the UAE.

McKenzie, who oversees US forces in the Middle East as head of Central Command, said he moved up his planned visit in response to the Houthi attacks, hoping to underscore the US commitment to the Gulf state’s defence.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced a US deployment of advanced F-22 fighter jets and a guided missile destroyer, the USS Cole, to work the UAE navy ahead of a port call in Abu Dhabi.

McKenzie said the F-22s would provide the UAE with “one of the best look-down radars in the world,” capable of identifying targets including land attack cruise missiles and drones.

The USS Cole will operate in waters around the UAE, he said, keeping a lookout for shipments of contraband.

Iran is documented by US and UN experts as smuggling weapons to Yemen’s Houthis with the use of small vessels.

The US military has so far described its support to the Emirates as bilateral, defensive assistance.

Asked about the latest Houthi missile attacks, McKenzie said they could have been prompted by a range of scenarios, including as a response to battlefield setbacks.

“Hard to know all the Houthi reasons behind this,” he said. “I think the Houthis aren’t used to losing ground in Yemen.”

The war in Yemen, which has killed tens of thousands of people and caused a humanitarian crisis, is widely seen as a proxy war during which Iran relies on Houthi militias.

Washington accuses Tehran of supplying high-end weaponry to the Houthis.

“Medium range ballistic missiles that were fired from Yemen and entered UAE were not invented, built, designed in Yemen,” McKenzie said. “All that happened somewhere else. So I think we certainly see the Iranian connection to this.”

Source » thearabweekly