A major shipping company is abandoning the Red Sea. Iran-sponsored and equipped Yemeni terrorist Houthis are making commercial shipping through the Bab al-Mandab Straits impossible. A major international marine carrier has given up sending its ships through the contested sea lanes as Biden’s defense planners attempt to round up an international maritime posse to stop the Houthis. Meanwhile, former US Central Command commanders believe action can be taken now.
As Liberty Nation explained in its coverage of Iran’s proxy attacking commercial vessels transiting the Bab al-Mandab straits, “The Houthi organization — which President Joe Biden removed from the terror list soon after taking office — has harassed and targeted commercial and US military vessels in the Red Sea. Yet little in the way of serious retaliation has been meted out.” What has changed in the Red Sea is that the Houthis have grown bolder and more aggressive in launching cruise missiles and drones against civilian merchant vessels attempting to carry out trade in international waters.
Houthis Make Red Sea Dangerous
The sea lanes in the Red Sea have become so dangerous that “Danish shipping company A.P. Moller-Maersk will pause its container shipments through the Red Sea until further notice after various vessels came under attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels,” Lauren Irwin, writing for The Hill reported. It’s only a matter of days before others will follow Moller-Maersk’s lead and find other routes to avoid Houthi missile and drone assaults.
In its Iran Updates Israel-Hamas War, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) described the situation all merchant cargo and tanker vessels encounter in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. ISW stated:
“Iran and its so-called ‘Axis of Resistance’ are exploiting the Israel-Hamas war to demonstrate their capability to control a key maritime route and chokepoint in the Middle East. The Houthis have conducted almost daily drone and missile attacks against commercial vessels transiting the Bab al Mandeb since December 9. The Houthi attack campaign signals to the international community that the Axis of Resistance can imperil ships around the Bab al Mandab in addition to the Strait of Hormuz.”
The United States Naval Institute News speculated on what commercial shippers can do in its account of the merchant shipping attacks, stating, “It is unclear if the shipping companies will elect to send ships around the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, as some have done to avoid Houthi interference.” The alternate route takes much longer and is more expensive for customers waiting for goods.
So far, the US has done nothing in any way to discourage the rogue band of Iran-sponsored Houthis from launching deadly attacks from Yemen. The most recent missile attacks were on Saturday, when “In the early morning hours of December 16 (Yemen time), the US Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64), operating in the Red Sea, successfully engaged 14 unmanned aerial systems launched as a drone wave from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen,” read the US Central Command) statement, according to Reuters. Apparently, the Houthis have adopted a new tactic. Instead of sending the drones one at a time, the terrorist rebels are attacking in swarms.
Pentagon Statements Not Reassuring
Word from the Pentagon is not encouraging that the US will take any leadership in stopping the Houthis. “(W)e are actively addressing this issue, and right now, the primary mechanism by which we’re doing that is working with international allies and partners to further bolster the maritime task force that will address this problem,” US Air Force Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, defense spokesman, responded when asked what the US would do about the Red Sea problem. When asked the follow-up question about who these partners are, the general said he didn’t have any announcement on that. A cynic might be thinking, “Yeah, right. There aren’t any partners.” Clearly, in the paraphrased words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “I do not think ‘actively addressing’ means what you think it means.”
Ryder did go on to say, “It’s not just a US problem, this is an international problem, and it requires an international solution.” Well, if it’s just an international problem, why do US warships believe they are obligated to shoot down drones and cruise missiles launched by the Iran-supplied Houthis? Then comes a tiresome refrain from the Pentagon and White House that the US will do everything possible to protect our forces. Retired US Army general Jack Keane had an unvarnished point of view on the defensive military crouch the Biden administration embraces. Keane told Fox:
“I am absolutely stunned that we’re still sitting there in a defensive mode. I mean, obviously, we have the capability to defend ourselves. There’s no disputing that. But to shut these people down, you have to take away their capability to do it. So, you go after that. You go after the rockets. You go after the missiles you’ve left at storage sites. You go after their entire command and control system. Make no mistake about it, why we’re still in this defensive role makes no sense to me whatsoever.”
Two former commanders of the US Central Command agree. Retired four-star generals Frank McKenzie and Joseph Votel, quoted in Air and Space Forces Magazine, expressed dismay at the US Defense Department’s reluctance to take the fight to the Houthis. “It’s not clear to me that responding to the Houthis’ provocations in Yemen, as a matter of self-defense, is necessarily escalating and would lead to significant Iranian involvement,” explained McKenzie. Echoing Keane’s opinions, Gen. Votel pointed out, “You could take action against coastal radars, coastal gun systems, missile systems, those kinds of sites. There are very clear military targets.”
Just standing by and watching the Iranian-directed and inspired Houthis does not show leadership to the international community. Instead, the US is projecting a Biden administration plagued by indecision and failure to take initiative. Taking out key arms warehouses, drone and cruise missile launch sites the Houthis depend on would be a clear message of resolve to “actively address” the enemy and the enemy’s sugar daddy – Iran.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.