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What’s Wrong With Biden Strategy to Halt Houthi Red Sea Attacks?

Twenty-four crew members abandon UK vessel damaged by Houthi missile.

Two missiles launched by Houthi terrorists on Feb. 18 engaged a British-registered, Belize-flagged cargo ship carrying a highly explosive agricultural fertilizer product, and one seriously damaged the vessel. The attack happened near the Bab al-Mandab Strait. When it became apparent the ship was taking on water, the crew abandoned it. Another commercial ship nearby picked up the crew and took them to it is believed to Djibouti.

Houthi Terrorist Attacks Continue

The Iran-backed Yemen-based Houthi rebels have been attacking international shipping in the Red Sea and surrounding waters since the Houthis’ ally-in-terror Hamas carried out its murderous attacks on Israelis on Oct. 7. As US Central Command (USCENTCOM), the US warfighting command responsible for the Middle East, explained on X:

“Between 9:30 and 10:45 p.m., Feb. 18, two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen toward MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, UK-owned bulk carrier. One of the missiles struck the vessel, causing damage. The ship issued a distress call, and a coalition warship, along with another merchant vessel, responded to the call to assist the crew.”

The MV Rubymar is a 563-foot-long bulk cargo carrier with a beam of 89 feet and, according to its schedule, was en route to Varna, Bulgaria, from Ras Al-Khair, Saudi Arabia.

“The attack on Rubymar was one of the worst yet, as most ships hit by Houthi missiles or drones have caused minimal damage, according to USNI News’ (US Naval Institute News) timeline of Red Sea activity,” the outlet reported. Despite US and British targeted airstrikes against specific cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and ballistic missile launch sites, including command and control and logistics infrastructure, the Houthi terrorists are undeterred. A recent US-UK aerial bombardment “struck 36 Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday [Feb. 3] in a second wave of assaults meant to further disable Iran-backed groups that have relentlessly attacked American and international interests in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war,” the Associated Press reported. Yet the intense bombing of individual targets associated directly with the assaults on merchant vessels in the Red Sea doesn’t seem to be having the desired deterrence effect.

Same Strategy, Hoping for a Better Result

President Joe Biden admitted as much when he answered a shouted question as he was boarding Marine One back in mid-January. “Are the airstrikes in Yemen working?” a reporter asked. “Well, when you say ‘working,’ are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes,” Biden responded. That exchange described the conundrum precisely. What the United States is doing to stop the Houthis is not working, but the Biden national security team keeps doing it. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

So far, USCENTCOM forces have focused on targets that constitute immediate threats. The result has been a Houthi enemy more defiant than ever. Proxies like Iraqi and Syrian militias and the Houthis are doing Iran’s work, leaving Tehran unscathed. The Biden defense team’s persistent and tiresome assertion is that they do not want a conflict with Iran and other regional opponents. The problem for the White House is that America’s enemies have shown conclusively that they do want a conflict. Why not? They’ve been successful so far. So, until the United States takes the fight to the real enemy in the Gulf region – Iran – the Biden strategy will be ineffective in shutting down the seemingly endless assaults.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.

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