An allied warplane taking off in the nighttime operation against Houthis, January 12, 2024

US, UK Launch Air, Missile Strikes Against Iran-Backed Houthis

Friday, 01/12/2024

The United States and the United Kingdom conducted airstrikes on Houthis in Yemen in the early hours of Friday local time, after the group's repeated attacks on vessels.

This action was taken after the Houthi group, supported by Iran, disregarded repeated calls to cease its attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have been targeting commercial vessels since mid-November, after Israel began its onslaught on Gaza, effectively closing down a major maritime route and disrupting the global flow of goods. The attacks began after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for blockading Israel.

Shortly after the strike, President Joe Biden said he authorized the operation, claiming support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, and hinting that there may be more attacks on Houthi positions.

“These precision strikes were intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of international mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” Biden said in a statement. “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”

Notably, Biden’s statement made no reference to Iran, despite the fact that only a day before, his secretary of state Anthony Blinken had said that Houthi attacks are “aided and abetted by Iran with technology, equipment, intelligence, [and] information.”

There was no immediate reaction from Iran, but the Houthi leader issued a threatening statement, vowing to carry on no matter what and “burn the region.”

“Do the American, British, and the Zionists expect that any aggressive act against Yemen will distract us from defending Gaza,” Abdul Malik al-Houthi asked. “We will continue to target Zionist ships and those going to the Zionist entity. We will confront America, make it kneel, burn its warships, all its bases, and anyone who cooperates with it.

Initial reports suggested that at least ten Houthi sites had been targeted, including “radar systems, air defense systems, and storage and launch sites” for drones and missiles, according to the US Central Command.

“We hold the Houthi militants and their destabilizing Iranian sponsors responsible for the illegal, indiscriminate, and reckless attacks on international shipping,” CENTCOM commander General Michael Erik Kurilla said. “Their illegal and dangerous actions will not be tolerated, and they will be held accountable.”

Houthi forces claimed to have retaliated against western warships, but no independent source verified this. The US military did not reported any such attacks at time of writing.

Many are worried that this operation would aggravate, not deter, the Houthis –leading to further attacks, escalation, and eventually an all-out regional war.

Saudi Arabia was the first to raise such concern shortly after the attack, according to Reuters. The kingdom’s foreign ministry emphasized the importance of maintaining the security and stability of the Red Sea region and called for “avoiding escalation”

Back in the US, criticisms were much more biting.

“The President needs to come to Congress before launching a strike against the Houthis in Yemen and involving us in another Middle East conflict,” Democratic congressman Ro Khanna posted on X. “That is Article I of the Constitution. I will stand up for that regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House.”

Another Democratic Representative, Cori Bush, said: “The people do not want more of our taxpayer dollars going to endless war and the killing of civilians. Stop the bombing and do better by us.”

The Republicans, however, seemed more supportive, especially those who had called on President Biden to target the Houthis –and even Iran. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and Roger Wicker and Rick Scott of the Armed Service Committee were among those who praised the attacks, emphasizing that it had come “late” and was not enough.

“Biden must now act every day to end the ability of Houthi forces and all Iran-back terrorists to attack the US and our partners,” Senator Scott posted on X.

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