Who Are the Houthis? What to Grasp Regarding the U.S., U.K. Raids in Yemen

In a significant escalation of tensions in the Middle East, Yemen-based Houthis rebels. Strategically positioned on the eastern side of the Red Sea, have emerged as a major threat to global shipping and the world economy. Recent weeks have witnessed over two dozen drone and missile attacks by the Houthis on commercial shipping destined for the Suez Canal. Their justification for these actions is framed as a response to Israel’s military operations against Hamas.

Maritime Community in Turmoil

The repercussions of these attacks are reverberating across the international maritime community. Major shipping companies are now opting to divert vessels south around the Cape of Good Hope, tacking on an additional 40 days to voyages. Prompted by the disruption caused by the Houthis, this diversion has the potential to surpass. The economic impact of the Ever Given cargo carrier’s blockade in the Suez Canal back in 2021.

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International Coalition Responds

Responding to the escalating threat, a coalition led by the United States has initiated a series of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen. The objective is to degrade the rebels’ capabilities and safeguard vital international shipping routes. Additionally, the Biden administration is poised to reclassify the Houthi rebel group as a terrorist organization. Reversing a previous decision made in consideration of peace talks and the economic stability of Yemen.

Roots of Conflict: Yemen’s Civil War

To comprehend the origin and motivations of the Houthi rebels, one must delve into their roots in Yemen’s prolonged civil war. According to a Barron’s newspaper report, initiated by religious and political leader Hussein Al-Houthi in the 1990s, the insurgency aimed at challenging what was perceived as a corrupt Yemeni government. Despite Hussein’s death in 2004, his brother Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi has continued the movement, gaining significant territory over the years.

Regional Dynamics and Alliances

Formally known as Ansar Allah or Supporters of God. The Houthis have positioned themselves as key players in Yemen’s ongoing civil strife. They identify as Zaydis, a branch of Shia Islam. And have garnered support from Iran while maintaining ties to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The conflict has taken on a regional dimension. With adversaries in the south and east receiving backing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Targeting Commercial Shipping: The Houthi Strategy

The recent focus on targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea by the Houthis. Is ostensibly tied to their mission against Israel. While they claim to target vessels linked to Israel. Security analysts believe their objective is to create a systemic threat in crucial waterways. Pressuring Israel’s allies to influence its withdrawal from Gaza.

International Response and Concerns

Internationally, the response to the U.S.-led strikes includes Russia’s request for a UN Security Council meeting. The Houthis denouncing the strikes as aggression. Iran condemning the attack. And Saudi Arabia expressing great concern.

Disruption and Global Challenges

Economically, the impact of Houthi attacks is substantial. Disruptions in shipping routes critical for 8% of the world’s oil supply have led to manufacturing challenges globally. For instance, Tesla has announced a two-week halt in production at its Gigafactory in Europe. Signaling potential supply chain crises for manufacturers dependent on parts from Asia.

Shipping Hiatus Expected

As the situation unfolds, shipping executives predict. A temporary hiatus in shipping, awaiting clarity on the safety of the Red Sea route. The Houthi rebels, once a regional player. Have now emerged as a force with far-reaching implications for global security and economic stability.