Emile Ameen

The Houthis and the Americans: Confrontation or Collusion

Will history repeat itself? Will we see the US or the international community do anything in response to the recent attacks by the Houthis, who have been threatening international navigation through the Bab al-Mandab Strait? It is inconceivable for Washington, in particular, to stand idly by amid everything happening there. It would be absurd for the international community to remain silent and fail to protect international shipping routes. Otherwise, we could suspect murky collusion behind-the-scenes with unclear objectives. Although this is far-fetched in one way or another, the way things have turned out affirms that “in some instances, suspicion is a sign of good sense.”

Why does Washington have a particular responsibility to lead global efforts to confront the Houthis as quickly as possible? Briefly, because the US, specifically the Biden administration, enabled them to do this after removing the Houthis from the global terrorism lists soon after he took office.

Day after day, it becomes increasingly apparent that the US effort to appease Iran is not effective. Indeed, it consistently yields poor results, as appeasement reinforces Iran’s sense of its own power, which encourages it to become more audacious. It seemed to Biden and his team that the Iranians would quickly make concessions once the Houthis were removed from the terror lists, leaving the door to a new nuclear deal between the current Democratic administration and Tehran wide open.

Iran appears to be manipulating Washington every day and night, through tactics deciphered by those who have a knack for deep strategic thinking. While Tehran has spared Hezbollah a clash with Israel since the conflict in Gaza began - out of a desire to preserve its dogmatic and ideological Lebanese proxy, so that its military capabilities could be used in case of a major confrontation - it is playing its Houthi pawns in the south of the Red Sea. Iran’s goal is to send messages to Uncle Sam: 'We are here, and we can disrupt international maritime navigation.”

Is Tehran deliberately opening a new front in the south, with the knowledge that geography favors the Houthis and enables them to threaten this strait that 17,000 cargo and oil tankers traverse annually, and through which a fifth of the oil consumed globally is transported? It seems that Washington and Biden are facing a test no less dangerous than that which President Ronald Reagan had been confronted with in April 1988, when the famous American frigate 'Samuel B. Roberts' was hit by an Iranian sea mine, prompting the Republican president to launch a military operation against Iran.

What we have seen from Washington so far is an indication to us that the Pentagon has recently moved the strike group of the aircraft carrier 'Dwight Eisenhower' from the Arabian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen, to support a potential American response to the escalating Houthi attacks, which are undermining the global economy and maritime navigation in the Suez Canal in one way or another.

All the camps in Washington know that the Houthis only speak the language of force. On October 1, 2016, the Houthis launched anti-ship missiles at American Navy ships, and in response, US forces bombed coastal radar sites with Tomahawk cruise missiles; it seems that this retaliation averted any additional operations by the insurgents in Yemen at that time.

This raises the question of what retaliatory options are available to the United States, and which will the Americans choose in hitting back against the Houthis?

Logistically, the Houthi attacks have yet to achieve significant results. Nonetheless, they could ultimately prove very successful if they are allowed to continue their apparent trial-and-error approach.

Accordingly, it seems that a series of measures can curb this troupe’s attacks. Foremost among these measures is putting them back on the foreign terror list, adding US and international sanctions, and pressuring relevant United Nations agencies to declare what the Houthis are in international waters as maritime terrorist acts, as stipulated by the “1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.”

The famous American website “Axios” has reported, citing sources close to the White House, that Washington has sent threats to the Houthis through intermediaries, only to be met with total disregard and to have their demand thrown against the wall.

Will the world see the US take action that ends the growing crisis, or will it confirm suspicions that Washington is colluding with the Houthis?"