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Ongoing Houthi Attacks Threaten Stability in the Gulf of Aden


MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Recent Houthi missile strikes in the Gulf of Aden are causing substantial concerns for international shipping and escalating regional tensions. On Saturday, two anti-ship ballistic cruise missiles struck the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged cargo ship Norderney, resulting in fire and damage but fortunately no loss of life. Another attack targeted the Liberian-flagged container ship, Tavvishi. These incidents follow a pattern of increasing aggression by the Iranian-backed Yemeni rebel group.

The Houthis, advancing their agenda under the pretext of retaliating against perceived western and Israeli aggressions, have ramped up their assault on maritime operations. Just last week, an attack injured a sailor aboard the Palauan-flagged MV Verbena, causing significant onboard fire and showcasing the group's growing confidence and capability in deploying advanced weaponry such as cruise missiles and drones.

From a conservative perspective, these actions are not only direct assaults on the affected vessels but also symbolic attacks against broader Western interests. Historically, shipping through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea has been vital to global trade, representing approximately 12% of global seaborne commerce. This strategic corridor has seen parallels to past instances of maritime threats, such as Somali piracy in the late 2000s, which prompted significant international military response to protect shipping lanes.

The Houthis' latest claims suggest their aggression is in retaliation for the US and British actions in Yemen and the situation in Gaza. This rhetoric is potentially stirring broader regional instability, reminiscent of the Iran-Iraq Tanker War in the 1980s where oil tankers were frequently targeted amid the broader conflict, leading to a US-led military escort operation to safeguard maritime traffic.

Central Command (CentCom) has responded by intensifying military operations, taking out several Houthi maritime assets, including patrol boats and unmanned vessels, mitigating immediate threats to coalition forces and commercial ships. The level of international maritime forces' preparedness and response echoes Operation Earnest Will, the 1987 initiative to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers from Iranian attacks during the Iran-Iraq War.

The strategic alignment of the Houthis with the Iranian “axis of resistance” against the US and its allies underscores the broader geopolitical contention at play. The risk to international shipping has resulted in several operators rerouting vessels to avoid the Red Sea, a logistical decision affecting global supply chains and increasing operational costs. This escalation also raises questions about the long-term security of international waters and the stability of trade routes critical to global economies.

While the Houthis' public rationale links their actions to Gaza solidarity, CentCom and other international observers argue these attacks are part of an Iranian strategy to extend its sphere of influence and destabilize areas with significant Western economic interests. Historically, maritime security in such contested waters has required long-term and often multilateral military commitments, indicating that potential future engagements might necessitate similar coordinated international efforts.

Under any other adminsitration, this type of prolonged viollent provocation would have brough on dramatic response either militarily or economically. The Biden administration continues to sit on it's hands and leave US warships and service personnel in harm's way with no real solution to the situation.

One would hope that any of the other nations involved would step up and try to solve this problem diplomatically and at least get the clarification that Yemen has declared war against both Israel (which it acknowledges) and also the West.


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