U.S. and United Kingdom forces jointly strike 8 Houthi targets in attempt to halt ship attacks

The United States and the United Kingdom, backed by four other countries, struck eight Houthi targets as part of an effort to “degrade Houthi capability” to attack ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported on Monday. The strikes by coalition ended a string of more than ten days of unilateral attacks solely by the U.S. military against the Iranian-backed Houthis.

“As part of ongoing international efforts to respond to increased Houthi destabilizing and illegal activities in the region … U.S. Central Command forces alongside UK Armed Forces, and with the support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, conducted strikes on 8 Houthi targets in Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen,” CENTCOM stated in a press release.

The U.S. and U.K. military forces struck “missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, radars, and deeply buried weapons storage facilities,” CENTCOM said. “These strikes are intended to degrade Houthi capability to continue their reckless and unlawful attacks on U.S. and U.K. ships as well as international commercial shipping,” while noting the operation was “separate and distinct from the multinational freedom of navigation actions performed under Operation Prosperity Guardian.”

The paucity of countries willing to confront the Houthis, and thus Iran, highlights the difficulty the Biden administration has had in assembling an international coalition to restore calm to the vital shipping lanes.

Operation Prosperity Guardian was formed on Dec. 19, one month after the Houthis began attacks on ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden, by the U.S. and 10 countries. However the mission was a purely defensive one designed to escort ships through the troubled waters off the coast of Yemen.

A subset of six nations involved in Operation Prosperity Guardian were willing to put their name on an operation to overtly target Houthi capabilities. The U.S. and U.K., supported by Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain, attacked Houthi military targets on Jan. 11. Between Jan. 12 and Jan. 21, the U.S. military unilaterally carried out strikes on 18 Houthi anti-ship missiles as they were deployed on launch rails.

However, the U.S. government continues to send mixed messages about restoring deterrence and a desire not to escalate.

“We are not at war with the Houthis,” said Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh on Jan. 18. “The Houthis are the ones that continue to launch cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles at innocent mariners …What we are doing, with our partners, is self-defense.”

The Houthis, with the support of Iran, are doing their part to defeat the U.S. and Israel as the latter battles Hamas and its terrorist allies in Gaza. As part of Iran’s Axis of Resistance, the Houthis are playing a vital role in disrupting commercial shipping and putting pressure on the U.S. to restrain Israel. The Axis of Resistance, which includes the Yemen-based Houthis, Lebanese Hezbollah, the constellation of Iraqi and Syrian militias, and Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terror groups, seeks to drive the U.S. from the Middle East and isolate and defeat Israel.

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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