Houthis Continue Threats Despite New U.S.-Led Multilateral Red Sea Operation

Latest Developments

Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen vowed on December 19 to continue threatening international shipping in the Red Sea. “No matter how many alliances America mobilizes, our military operations will not stop,” said Mohammed Albukhaiti, a member of the organization’s ruling council. The statement came in response to the announcement of a new U.S.-led international mission to safeguard commercial vessels in the area.

The Houthis, who toppled Yemen’s internationally recognized government in 2014, have harassed 12 international commercial ships — and, in some instances, U.S. Navy vessels — in the past four weeks using drones and missiles. In November, the Houthis seized the Bahamas-flagged cargo ship Galaxy Leader and continue to hold the ship and 25 members of its crew hostage. Despite repeated Houthi attacks, the United States has not responded with military force in Yemen, nor has the Biden administration moved to re-list the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization.

Expert Analysis

“The Houthis will continue these attacks on international shipping if there are no consequences. More naval capacity can help better protect commercial vessels and defeat Houthi attacks. But even the best defenses will eventually fail. That’s why, as a matter of force protection, the United States should target the launch sites and associated infrastructure in Yemen used to attack our vessels. If the Saudis don’t want to see such attacks, they should use their leverage in Beijing to exert pressure on Tehran. Moreover, don’t expect the Houthis to stop their attacks if they continue to enjoy a reliable supply of smuggled Iranian weapons.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Iran-backed Houthi rebels have proven their ability to replicate Tehran’s Persian Gulf maritime harassment strategy in the Red Sea. While the new task force is a welcome effort to support global shipping that traverses these international waters, it is a purely defensive move. Only by striking Houthi targets, military capabilities, and launch sites can the United States hope to change the mind of this Iranian proxy.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

U.S. Announces New Multilateral Naval Operation

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the creation of Operation Prosperity Guardian during a visit to the Middle East on December 18. Nations publicly participating as of December 18 include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain. Many more nations are supporting the operation but want to do so discreetly.

The mission, which will be led by Combined Task Force 153 (CTF153), will patrol the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The Associated Press, citing an unnamed official, reported that the task force will provide umbrella coverage against Houthi threats directed at vessels traveling through the region rather than provide direct escort.

Shipping Companies Pause Red Sea Operations

On December 18, BP — one of the world’s largest oil energy companies — announced that it would temporarily pause the shipping of oil, natural gas, and other energy supplies through the Red Sea due to Houthi attacks. The news follows announcements by other commercial shipping companies, including MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM Group, and Hapag-Lloyd, that they would suspend shipping through the Red Sea and seek alternate routes.

The Gulf of Aden, Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal are vital trade routes for shipping energy and consumer goods between Europe and Asia, through which 40 percent of Europe-Asia trade and 10 to 15 percent of global trade transits. An alternate route around the Horn of Africa would add 10 or more days to the route and could cause global supply chain disruptions. Already, the shipping companies’ announcements have led to a rise in energy prices.

Check Also

The Imperial Presidency Unleashed

How the Supreme Court Eliminated the Last Remaining Checks on Executive Power This week in …