Yemen’s Houthi rebels have attacked commercial vessels in the Red Sea and also have attacked a US warship, the USS Carney. According to Houthi sources, they fired missiles and launched kamikaze drones.
The Houthis, a rebel group holding substantial territory bordering the Red Sea near the straits of Bab al-Mandab, are fully supported by Iran. The missiles and drones aimed at commercial and military targets are Iranian and it is Iran that is using the Houthis as its proxy (and always has been). What the Biden administration has called “the Saudi war in Yemen” is, actually, “the Iranian-sponsored Houthi war against Saudi Arabia, the UAE and now, Israel and the United States.”
What has the US done about these attacks?
The answer is, very little
It is true that ships like the Carney, which have sophisticated AEGIS air defenses and rapid fire Phalanx deck guns, have fired on and destroyed Houthi-launched missiles and drones. But doing that has not deterred Houthi-land or Iran. In fact, now they are firing off more missiles and drones, some of them aimed at Israeli territory and Israeli-owned ships.
The Red Sea is a very important international waterway, with much of its traffic fed by the Suez Canal at the northern end. Terrorism in the Red Sea threatens the exit of Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. And it threatens the sole permanent American military base in Djibouti, 18 miles from Yemen. Iranian or Iranian proxy control of the waterway also allows for the supply of military equipment to Iranian militias operating in Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and the Sinai Peninsula.
There is no legal justification of any kind to attack civilian ships in the Red Sea, nor is there any casus belli that allows any state or entity (the Houthis are an entity) to attack US military vessels that carry out Freedom of Navigation operations on the Red Sea, in the Mediterranean, and in the Persian Gulf.
Nor do the Houthis have any writ to attack Israel, a country that has never been engaged in any action impacting them. Justifying these attacks as some sort of defense of radical Islam or the Palestinians simply doesn’t cut it.
By not acting in any way to make these attacks costly to the Houthis, or Iran, the US is inviting additional trouble.
The US has three main options.
Option 1 is to leave things the way they are and just counterpunch against Houthi-launched weapons. This is the Biden administration’s current policy, and it is a bad one.
Option 2 is to stop CENTCOM’s current freedom of navigation operations, which would have the effect of endangering commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea. Because Houthi attacks directly impact Israeli interests, at some point Israel will attack the Houthis using their F-35s or their killer drones such as the IAI Harop, a stealthy loitering munition. Or Israel could launch any number of cruise missiles in its arsenal, as they have, from time to time, done in Syria to destroy Iranian and Hezbollah forces threatening them.
Option 3 is to punish the Houthis. One B-1 bomber run could wipe out Houthi launch sites. A few drones armed with Hellfire missiles could knock off some of the Houthi terrorist leaders, sending them a strong message warning them about future behavior.
President Joe Biden is coddling Iran and not acting in the American national interest, letting them get away with literal murder in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and now on the high seas. Our troops in Iraq and Syria have been plastered by rockets and drones fired by Iranian proxies equipped with arms supplied by Iran.
Biden has also coddled the Houthis. Among his first acts as President was to remove them from the terrorist list, and demand that Saudi Arabia and the UAE “tolerate” their attacks and not respond. Instead, Biden and his minions have encouraged “peace talks,” which (naturally enough) have gone nowhere. The failure of diplomacy has not deterred Biden and his State Department from pursuing an absurd policy in the region where our enemies increasingly think we are both weak and feckless.
Enough is enough.
One of those Houthi drones or missiles could kill a lot of US Navy seamen or blow up oil tankers causing the loss of life and creating an environmental disaster. We are playing with literal fire hoping one of our ships won’t be hit.
Biden is risking all this to keep Iran’s mullahs content (along with shoveling billions of dollars to them for no purpose other than to encourage more reckless behavior).
The time has passed for bad policies to be perpetuated to no good end. Congress should demand retaliation and Biden should be forced to order it done. There isn’t any doubt our Navy, Air Force and Marines would happily do the job.