In a coordinated effort, the United States and the United Kingdom conducted targeted air strikes in Yemen early Friday in response to weeks of disruptive attacks on Red Sea shipping by Iran-backed Huthi forces. The strikes focused on key Houthi military assets, including an airbase, airports, and a military camp.
Huthi Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Al-Ezzi denounced the strikes, labeling them a “massive aggressive attack” by American and British forces. He warned of severe consequences for the two nations.
U.S. President Joe Biden justified the strikes as a “defensive action” against the Huthis, emphasizing the need to protect freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. The attacks involved fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles, and Biden pledged a willingness to take further military action if necessary.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak supported the strikes, stating they were “necessary and proportionate.” A joint statement from the U.S., UK, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Korea emphasized the goal of de-escalating tensions and restoring stability in the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia expressed “great concern” over the military operations, urging restraint and cautioning against escalation. The Huthis had intensified their attacks on international shipping, citing connections to Israel and responding to perceived Israeli actions in Gaza.
The strikes risk exacerbating tensions in the Middle East, potentially widening the conflict involving the U.S., Israel, and Iran and its proxies. The Huthis, part of the Iran-backed “axis of resistance,” control a significant portion of Yemen since the civil war began in 2014.
The situation escalated following the Huthis’ largest attack on January 9, directly targeting American ships. Prior warnings by the U.S. and its allies to cease shipping attacks were met with continued hostility.
The international community, particularly the U.S., had established Operation Prosperity Guardian in December to safeguard maritime traffic in the Red Sea. However, the Huthis persisted in their attacks, prompting the recent strikes. The conflict has disrupted global trade routes, with ships rerouting around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.
The Biden administration, while cautious in its response, aims to protect vital interests while navigating the complex dynamics of the region. The situation remains fluid, with the potential for further developments and responses from all involved parties.