The Galaxy Leader cargo ship was seized by Houthis in the Red Sea, November 20, 2023.

UN Security Council Demands Houthis Stop Targeting Ships

Thursday, 01/11/2024

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Wednesday, calling on Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis to stop attacks on shipping in the Red Sea immediately.

The Houthis, armed by Iran, have been targeting commercial vessels since mid November, after Israel began its onslaught on Gaza following the October 7 Hamas attack, effectively closing down a major maritime route and disrupting the global flow of goods.

After much deliberation, the 15-member council arrived at a draft with no direct reference to Iran and mild enough for Russia and China to not use their veto. Both countries abstained.

“With this resolution, the Council has lived up to its responsibility to help ensure the free flow of lawful transit through the Red Sea continues unimpeded,” said the US ambassador to the UN after the vote. “The world’s message to the Houthis today was clear: Cease these attacks immediately.”

The Houthis, however, rejected the resolution.

“The United Nations resolution on the security of navigation in the Red Sea is a political game,” a group’s spokesman said shortly after the vote. “Washington is the one violating international law, and what the Yemeni armed forces are doing is a legitimate defense, and any action it faces will have a reaction.”

A key provision of the resolution stresses the right of UN member states, “to defend their vessels from attack,” in accordance with international law.

Hours before the vote at the Security Council, US secretary of state Anthony Blinken once more threatened the Houthis with military response, emphasizing Iran’s role.

“These attacks have been aided and abetted by Iran with technology, equipment, intelligence, [and] information,” he said. “If these attacks continue, as they did yesterday, there'll be consequences.”

Blinken was referring to a barrage of “complex” Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea a day earlier, using “Iranian-designed” drones and missiles, all of which the US and UK forces neutralized, according to the US military.

The Houthis say they act in support of Hamas and only go after vessels that are linked or headed to Israel, although some of the targets have had no discernible link with the country, merely forcing mass reroute of cargo ships that experts say could push up global food prices.

Curiously enough, oil tankers have not been targeted so far, either because the Houthis dread a potentially catastrophic oil leak, or more likely because they have been hinted by their sponsors in Tehran that oil –the Iranian regime’s lifeline– has to remain off limits.

The Wednesday’s resolution condemned “large-scale” violations of the arms embargo against the Houthis without naming Iran, which is the group’s main arms supplier.

Leaving out Iran seems to have been a compromise US and Japan, the resolution sponsors, have had to make to get the nod from the Chinese and the Russians –who, in turn, had to abandon their draft amendment which called the Israeli war on Gaza a “root cause” of the Houthi attacks.

Nonetheless, the Russian representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya did make his country’s position clear.

“In order for the Red Sea waters to become calm again, the current escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone must be resolved, the slaughter in Gaza must be stopped and Palestinian-Israeli settlement must be addressed seriously,” he stated.

The Houthis say they will only stop their operations if Israel stops theirs in Gaza. The group has repeatedly called for a ceasefire, which the US and Israel reject.

White House spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the US does not support a ceasefire because it only benefits Hamas.

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