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Why Houthis attacking commercial ships in Red Sea?

Rayhan Ahmed Tapader

Rayhan Ahmed Tapader

Thu, 25 Jan 24

The Houthis have been targeting ships in the Red Sea since mid-November last year. The US sends warships there to provide security for international shipping. The US is sending its best warships to destroy missiles and drones launched by the Houthi rebels and to assist in rescuing commercial ships in distress. The British also sent their best warships for this. However, as the situation has changed, the US and the UK have now launched attacks on Houthi military installations. As the Houthi rebels launched a series of drone and missile attacks, both the United Kingdom and the United States raised doubts about how well their warships would respond to such attacks.

On January 10, US and British warships shot down 21 drones and missiles. At that time, British Defense Minister Grant Shapps said that this is not a sustainable solution. The question is, why did the Houthi situation go out of control? There are possible answers to this question. That is, a warship can carry very few missiles. US warships have the Aegis missile defense system. These ships rely on SM-2 type missiles. Neither US nor British ships could have complete control of the seas, meaning that they did not have the ability to sustain a long-term battle. Houthi attacks on January 10 indicate that the number of Houthi attacks will increase in the coming days. The Houthi arsenal poses a challenge to the security capabilities of the United States and Britain. Missile defense systems are very expensive. Each SM-2 missile costs $2.1 million.

And the missiles that the British forces are using cost between 1 and 2 million pounds each. Once the stockpile of such missiles is exhausted, it is very challenging to fill the gaps. Not only is there a question of cost, they can take years to produce. An average of 68 ships pass through the Suez Canal every day. 12 percent of the world's total commercial goods are transported through this route. That is why it is impossible for the international community to ignore the fact that the Houthi rebels have been targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea for two months. In this context, the United States and the United Kingdom have decided to take military action against the Houthi base in Yemen. This idea is the most powerful. But what is the strategy behind this military action of the United States and the United Kingdom? Can the attack on the ship be stopped through this? Will this strategy help prevent the Gaza war from spreading to a larger scale? There are many factors involved. As such, there should be no confusion about what the Houthis like. In Yemen's civil war, 150,000 Houthis have been killed in direct combat so far. This number can be enough to prove the cruelty of the war. More than 227,000 Yemenis have died due to famine and lack of medical care due to the war. The humanitarian crisis there is still ongoing. The poverty situation is very serious. Government employees in the occupied territories have not been paid any salary for seven years. No one should have any difficulty in understanding what ordinary Yemenis are going through under the Houthi regime.

Houthis attack commercial ships in Red Sea. The Houthis claim they are doing this in solidarity with the Palestinians. But there is no reason to doubt that the Houthis are trying to gain legitimacy in the Arab world. At the same time, they are trying to restore their eroding support within the country through actions such as ship attacks. In addition, this activity of the Houthis will be helpful for Iran, the main ally of the Houthis in the struggle for power in the Middle East. The recent US and UK joint attacks on Yemen will play a role in the implementation of these agendas by the Houthis. US and UK forces have the ability to attack Houthi military bases and destroy Houthi drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea. But the power that Houthi is throwing one after another, can the West wipe out the power? It is already clear that it cannot. The Houthis have already vowed to retaliate, firing missiles and drones into the Red Sea within hours of US and UK warplanes attacking them. One thing to remember is that Saudi Arabia has carried out thousands of airstrikes in Yemen's long-running civil war. However, the power of the Houthis could not be undermined. US-UK joint forces are conducting very limited strikes. It is evident that it will not be effective. The Houthis will get the weapons they need to carry out the attack anyway from Iran. For that reason, considering the military aspect, this air attack by the United States and the United Kingdom is not a realistic way to achieve their declared goals.

People in the Middle East consider airstrikes in Yemen as duplicity of the United States and the United Kingdom. There is no problem with the US support to Israel because of the blockade of the red ships. But because of the military and financial support that the United States continues to provide to Israel, more than 23,000 people have been killed in Gaza so far. Political leaders in the US and UK are now claiming that the reason they are taking action against the Houthis is to protect civilians on merchant ships in the Red Sea. This is their hypocrisy at its highest level. In Palestine they continue to support the killing of thousands of civilians (mostly women and children). They do not agree to protect civilians. The anger created in the minds of the people of the Middle East is real. It is increasing now. It is gaining support in the Houthis' attempt to gain legitimacy in the Arab world. Invasion of Gaza, attacks in Yemen, ongoing conflict along Israel's northern border, attacks in Lebanon and killing of Hamas or Hezbollah leaders all increase regional tensions, but also raise fears of renewed terrorist attacks outside the Middle East. Other factors include: January 10 The British warship HMS Diamond and US warships have been attacked by drones and missiles in the area of the sea. If this comment is true, then it means that the Houthis directly targeted US and UK warships. On December 20, the Houthi leadership warned that they would attack US warships if attacked.

On December 31, Houthis attacked a container ship in Singapore. A rescue message sent from the ship said four boats surrounded them. According to the US Central Command, the small boats came from the controlled areas of Yemen. by shooting Boats came within 20 meters of the ship and tried to board the ship. The US sent helicopters from its warships to protect container ships from Houthi boats. Attacks it if it ignores warnings to move. Three boats of the Houthis were destroyed. One escaped. According to the Houthis, US enemies must suffer the consequences of their crimes. A US military presence in the Red Sea will in no way protect Israeli ships. During the January 10 attack, the Houthis fired ship-destroying ballistic missiles at US and UK warships. Earlier, the Houthis used kamikaze drones and anti-ship cruise missiles. The drone flies very slowly. This short-range drone can carry up to 30 kg of explosives. Samad drone is long range. The drones used by the Houthis to attack ships in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait are more likely to be short-range drones. Yemen's Houthis possess several types of anti-ship cruise missiles. On December 11, a Norwegian ship was attacked with such a cruise missile. The ship was somewhat damaged but ultimately saved. Ballistic missiles are fast. Such missiles hit targets quickly and have less time to counter them. The Houthis have received several types of anti-ship ballistic missiles from Iran.

As a result, it is creating deep problems in the movement of ships along the coastline. The Houthis launched anti-ship ballistic missiles that finally led the US and the UK to withdraw from defensive positions and launch an offensive against the Houthis. The United States, United Kingdom and other navies are responsible for protecting ships in the Red Sea. They are also responsible for stopping Houthi missiles and drones. It is true that the Houthi missile defenses will be bypassed today or tomorrow. And it will cost the lives of ordinary people. But it is clear that the joint airstrikes launched by the United States and the United Kingdom are not driven by strategic principles, but by the principle that something must be done. Another thing is that they are firing missiles even after the airstrikes have heavily damaged Houthi military installations. Now, if the Western forces have to throw jute instead of bricks, what will be the consequences of the geopolitical risk that will be created if the air strikes in the controlled areas of Yemen are launched out of revenge? The Houthis will use the US-UK airstrikes to stop Houthi attacks in the Red Sea to strengthen their position inside the country and gain legitimacy in the Middle East. This means treating the cause of the illness, not the symptoms. First of all, they must move away from the West's two-pronged policy on the issue of Israel and Palestine.

Author: Researcher and columnist

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