Houthis continue attacks in Red Sea despite warning from coalition

The Iran-backed Houthis continue to target commercial shipping in the Red Sea despite a week-old warning from a U.S.-led international coalition to halt the strikes. The coalition has yet to take action against Houthi provocations.

In the latest attack on Tuesday, the Houthis fired “18 OWA UAVs [one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles], two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the Southern Red Sea, towards international shipping lanes where dozens of merchant vessels were transiting,” U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported.

None of the Houthi weapons systems struck their targets as they were “shot down by a combined effort of F/A-18s from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Gravely (DDG 107), USS Laboon (DDG 58), USS Mason (DDG 87), and the United Kingdom’s HMS Diamond (D34),” CENTCOM stated.

The U.S. military is expending millions of dollar in missiles to shoot down rudimentary drones that cost thousands of dollars to produce.

One other attack on shipping was reported by CENTCOM since an international coalition issued a warning to the Houthis to cease attacks one week ago. On Jan. 6, the USS Laboon shot down a drone “in self-defense,” CENTCOM reported. The Houthis have launched 26 attacks on international shipping since Nov. 19, according to CENTCOM.

The strongly-worded warning has done nothing to deter the Houthis from wreaking chaos in the Red Sea. On Jan. 3, on international coalition of 13 countries said that the Houthis with “will bear the responsibility of the consequences” if the militia continues to attack ships passing through the Red Sea and the Bab al Mandeb Strait, one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. However, the U.S. stopped short of directly acknowledging Iran’s role in the attacks, since Iran supports the Houthis and aids in directing them.

There has been no military response to the successful Houthi and Iranian efforts to disrupt traffic passing through the Red Sea, the Bab al Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal. More than 12 percent of the world’s shipping and 30 percent of cargo vessels pass through these vital waterways, according to CENTCOM. The Houthi attacks have severely impacted global trade. An estimated “95 percent of the container ships that normally transit the Red Sea and Suez Canal are rerouting around the tip of South Africa,” said Mike Shuler, the editor of gCaptain reported.

One month after the Houthis began their attacks on shipping, the U.S. formed a coalition of 11 countries, called Operation Prosperity Guardian, on Dec. 18 in an effort to counter the Houthis threat. However, Operation Prosperity Guardian was a defensive coalition in nature and designed only to escort ships through the dangerous waters of the Red Sea and the Bab Al Mandeb. The Houthis did not flinch and continued to attack both commercial vessels and U.S., U.K., and French warships.

The Houthis, a Shia militia which formed in the 1990s and seized the capital of Sana’a in 2014, are part of Iran’s Axis of Resistance, which seeks to aid Hamas in its fight again Israel. The Houthis are also belligerent to the U.S. for the latter’s support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE for interfering in Yemen’s ongoing civil war.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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