Attack on Yemen

Published January 13, 2024

THE situation in the Red Sea was already explosive. And with the Anglo-American attacks targeting the Houthi movement in Yemen on Thursday, the first shots in a long, ugly war have likely been fired. Soon after Israel launched its genocidal assault on Gaza following the Oct 7 Hamas raids, the Houthis had promised to block Israeli ships, or those linked to Tel Aviv, from passing through the Red Sea and Bab el-Mandeb strait in solidarity with Palestine. The Iran-aligned group then delivered on its promise, by raiding vessels and striking others with projectiles. This sent shockwaves throughout the global shipping industry, as the area in focus is a vital maritime corridor, and many leading firms decided to stay away from the Red Sea. In reaction to the Houthi moves, the US assembled a naval coalition of the willing to ‘protect’ maritime shipping, though this failed to deter the Yemeni group. Thursday’s assault, in which several Yemeni targets were hit causing fatalities, is a major escalation, and the Houthis have vowed to hit back.

Though the blockade of maritime routes is problematic, the Houthis had said they would cease their actions if the war on Gaza ended. This obviously has not happened, and instead of pressing their Israeli allies to stop the bloodshed, America has put on an ugly display of military power, which has dialled up tensions in the region by several notches. Russia has called the strikes on Yemen “illegitimate”, while Iran has also condemned them. Moreover, several pro-American Arab states have distanced themselves from the Anglo-US actions. From here we must prepare to enter the unknown. The world’s mightiest military power has taken on a militia belonging to one of the globe’s poorest states, that has held off the well-armed Saudi military for nine years. While the Houthis may be allied to Iran, they are masters of their own destiny, and their reaction to the aggression is likely to be unpredictable. One thing is certain: a quick return to the status quo ante in the Middle East is out of the question.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2024

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