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OpinionHouthi threats to attack ships in the Red Sea every 12 hours: is a full-scale war looming?

Houthi threats to attack ships in the Red Sea every 12 hours: is a full-scale war looming?

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The US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, announced the formation of a multinational force to protect trade in the Red Sea. This operation, named “Guardian of Prosperity,” is designed to counter the Yemeni Houthi rebels, who have intensified attacks on commercial ships in the area.

The multinational operation includes countries such as the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Seychelles, and Spain. This announcement followed reports by the US and UK navies that their destroyers had shot down a total of 15 Houthi drones in the waterway.

On Monday, an oil tanker flying the Cayman Islands flag sent a distress signal after being hit by “multiple projectiles.” Around the same time, another military ship was attacked, as reported by CNN. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks on both vessels, which they allege were linked to Israel. They also stated that “no harm will be done” to ships heading to ports worldwide, “except for Israeli ones.”

Since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas, the Houthis have seriously targeted ships in the area linked to Israel. This move was explained as an attempt to punish the Jewish state for casualties among Palestinians in Gaza.

The world’s attention is focused on the Red Sea situation because approximately 12% of global trade passes through this waterway, which connects to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. The Houthi actions have forced many companies to change routes, significantly increasing costs and causing delivery delays.

At least 12 shipping companies, including the Italian-Swiss giant Mediterranean Shipping Company, French CMA CGM, and Danish AP Moller-Maersk, have suspended transit through the Red Sea for safety reasons. The latest company to follow suit was the British oil giant BP.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which could have influenced the situation, are trying not to be too active. Saudi Arabia recently concluded a fragile truce with the Houthis, while Egypt traditionally tries to remain neutral.

The US has been actively moving its forces to the Middle East since October 7, but this is fraught with serious consequences. A high-ranking representative of the Yemeni group, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, told Al Jazeera that his forces would oppose any US-led coalition in the Red Sea.

On Tuesday, it became clear what this meant. In a conversation with the same channel, a representative of the “Ansar Allah” movement, Mohammed Abdel Salam, announced the intention to attack commercial ships in the Red Sea every 12 hours. “As for naval operations, they are in full swing. We assume that operations will be carried out no less than once every 12 hours,” Abdel Salam clarified.

Iran, which supports the Houthis, also reacted to the “Guardian of Prosperity” operation. Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani stated that any multinational operational group would face extreme difficulties trying to protect shipping in the Red Sea: “If the US takes such an irrational step, they will face extreme problems. No one can take a step in the region where we dominate.”

This statement, “We dominate,” is significant. The US traditionally wants to dominate, but it has been challenging to do so. Any attempt to establish control over the territory under the guise of protection often ends poorly for the United States.


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Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Editor-in-chief, The Eastern Herald. Counter terrorism, diplomacy, Middle East affairs, Russian affairs and International policy expert.

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