An Explainer; US and UK attacks on the Houthis
Happy Friday to TAT readers,
Today’s piece will be a challenge to explain, due to the complexity, but let’s see if I can establish a coherent narrative about yesterday’s US and UK attacks against the Houthi Rebels, in Yemen. This is not just about some Islamist rebels in a nation at war, but an integral piece of, strategic, three-dimensional chess in the tug-of-war between China and Russia and their proxies, against the RBIO, or Rules-Based, International Order, or more simply, against a stable, functioning world. Okay, I realize that this is a mouthful, so let’s get started sorting out this mess.
Thanks to all in advance, for patience in reading. Today is like the “Cliff Notes” to a set of encyclopedias.
Let’s look at the primary issues and players in this very precipitous drama.
Who are the Houthis?
First and foremost, the Houthis are sort of Shia. Islam is primarily divided between Sunni and Shia Islam. Sunnis are by far, the most prominent. Shia Islam, primarily centered on Iran are in a centuries long conflict with the Sunnis. Sunni Islam controls all other Muslim nations.
Think of this confusing explanation as the difference between Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches, the difference between orthodox and secular Jews or the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva, the extremist version that Modi’s political party, the BJP, uses to theocratize and oppress Indian democracy.
Still, though, the Houthis are a very different brand of Shia Islam, and some would argue that they are not Shia at all. This is a rabbit-hole far too deep to go down today, so let’s just keep it simple. What matters is that Yemen’s Houthis are strongly affiliated with Iran, who like Hamas, Hezbollah and other extremist groups are supplied, trained and somewhat directed by Iran. In short and in the case of the current situation, the Houthis are proxies of the theocratic, terrorist regime in Tehran and are doing Tehran’s bidding with their attacks on commercial vessels and launching missiles and drones at Israel.
The attacks on Israel and commercial shipping
From almost the beginning of the war in Gaza, the Houthis have attacked Israel in a couple of different ways. They have also, attacked commercial shipping in the Red Sea where a full 15% of the world’s shipping passes. Shipping rates globally are already increasing, some doubling due to the attacks, while that some shippers have already stopped using this critical shipping lane entirely. This is a serious disruption to portions of the global economy.
Below are links to some of the details regarding these attacks, all exceptionally brazen and dangerous:
Background Press Call on Recent Attacks by the Houthis | The White House
Houthi attacks on Israel jeopardise Saudi peace efforts in Yemen | Yemen | The Guardian
Yemen is a nation at one of the most important crossroads of the world. Historically, most historians agree that the “Queen of Sheba” of biblical and other religious texts mentions, ruled her Kingdom in Yemen. Ever since, Yemen has known mostly conflict, disruption, famine and to this day, the rope in a tug-of-war, between East and West.
Yemen was one of the focuses of US and Coalition efforts regarding AQ and other Islamic extremist elements. To this day, AQ still exists in its East although far less than at its peak. In the past few years, Yemen has had a bloody, destabilizing civil war and the Houthis, have fared better than their opposition. Still, the Houthis cannot manage to consolidate control over the entire nation, nor the strategically critical port in Aden.
Yemen is the entry into the Red Sea and hence, the Suez Canal. It is a very narrow corridor for shipping and one of the most strategic waterways and what the military calls “choke points,” in the world and critically so for oil and natural gas.
Chinese, Russian and Iranian interests
Egypt and China have a strong majority control over the northern end of the Suez Canal and a strong Naval Presence in Djibouti across the Bab-al-Mandeb, the Gate of Grief or the Gate of Tears, in Arabic. As you can see, the distance at the mouth of the Red Sea is very narrow for shipping and China controls the Djibouti side. Iran, who has deep ties with China, Russia wishes to see both sides under the same control… theirs. All three have a vested interest in extorting shipping through this chokepoint in order to have significant economic leverage over the clients that require this passage.
Hence, Iran is serving two masters, Putin and Xi. Since Iran is the primary support for Hamas and Hezbollah, their proxies in Yemen, the Houthis take on increased importance in what most these days call, “Great Power Competition.
The West is roughly a decade behind in effectively competing with Xi’s China Dream, via the BRI or as commonly known, the Belt and Road Initiative. Xi’s China Dream’s timeline clearly states regional domination by 2035 and global domination by 2049, as its milestones. “The Suez Canal and Red Sea play a vital role in the BRI. This short list of strategic villains, Xi, Putin and the theocratic terrorists in Tehran, all have a vested interest in Yemen, meaning the Houthis who have the most powerful forces in the country have taken on a more prominent role as proxy forces.
As one of the first of 16 or 17 reports from TAT, about the Israeli/ Hamas war in Gaza I wrote, I explain in more detail, the roles of the Axis of evil that China, Russia, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and other thugs present. They are a threat to not only Israel, but the global security architecture which includes the global economy. In the time since that article was published, the Houthis must now be included in this axis of evil.
Other than what is covered in the article referenced above, about the entities responsible for the war in Gaza and which includes Russia, I will simply add a few notes regarding Putin, his relationship with Xi’s/ China and Iran.
Even the MEI/ Middle Eastern Institute, a gently Pro Palestinian Middle East Think Tank, that does a very good job in analysis, agrees and details Russian involvement quite well, regarding the lead up to the OCT 7th, barbarian massacre of Israelis, mostly civilians. It can be found here:
Essential questions about the Russia-Hamas link: The evidence and its implications | Middle East Institute (mei.edu)
This report is from Nov 28th and more about Russian connectivity has been unveiled in the time since.
What matters most in regard to Putin and Russia is that Ukraine has gone horribly wrong for them. A quarter of a million casualties and now, they have less occupied territory than when they started. The military, supply chain, allies and economy have all taken a nose-dive.
Due to Ukrainian failures, Putin has taken to instigating other conflicts and hotspots where he has proxy relationships like, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Niger, CAR/ Central African Republic, the Congo etc. These diversions are meant to draw attention and resources from NATO’s supply commitments to the Ukrainian forces fighting against Putin’s genocide.
Gaza is one such diversion and Iran, as another Putin proxy, has accommodated this via their proxy forces called Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamist extremist organizations. Now, add to this the Houthis.
Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are Iranian proxies. Iran is Putin’s and Xi’s proxy, although it is mostly Russia who depends on Iran to do their dirty work. Xi simply expects Putin to not do anything to impede his China Dream via the BRI. This is precisely what matters at the Bab al Mandab where the Houthis are disrupting commercial shipping. The great irony is, that any long-term disruption of commercial shipping ends up hurting China as well but at the moment and from a strategic point of view, Xi gets strategic leverage from this issue.
What many don’t realize about Xi’s China is that in the last decade or so, they have also specialized in sending mediation teams to resolve conflicts. They do so though, in China’s interest, therefore acquiring influence around the world. They did this when the Saudis were at war with the Houthis in Yemen a couple of years ago. This is global conflict, Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. China benefits from the conflict that either they start, their proxies start or look the other way over until they can swoop in and save the day for Xi, not the combatants.
What I do not expect is Iran to go to war over the Houthis or Hamas. They are making trouble in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and more but I don’t believe that Putin will allow them to go to full conflict. Putin is desperate for any and all logistical support and cannot afford to lose what Iran brings to the fight in Ukraine. Surely though, Iran will employ their Quds forces to sneak around in the shadows and commit more terrorist acts against women and children around the globe. No Iranian Army, IRGC or Quds forces will ever fight a “stand-up fight.” They would be slaughtered.
The bottom line to all of this complex puzzle is that in my opinion, actions by the Houthis, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Azerbaijan and a variety of African states are failed diversions. The US and NATO are managing all of this so far, quite well as that we are staying out of any major conflict, in order to keep resources heading to Ukraine, which is the premier and most critical national security issue for the US, NATO and in fact, global stability. We must help Ukraine win at all costs. The biggest holdup so far in this respect, is the Republicans in Congress, who refuse to fund Ukraine’s fight for survival and for all of Western Liberal Democracy. Why they support Putin, is one of the most shameful issues in American History. I’ve written on this before and will not rehash it here.
This is a very complex and deep topic, so it is good that readers can have time to read more relaxed than during workdays at the office or elsewhere. We are all involved in this because failing to understand the threat of Xi, Putin, Iran and their proxies, could be fatal to the world as we know it. If we don’t unite and break the chain of evil with Xi at the top, down through Putin, the terrorist theocrats in Tehran, the Houthis, Hamas, Hezbollah and others, the world will be facing a united front of evil for which the only resolution, is WW III. Would someone please tell the Republicans in Congress!!
On that note, I wish everyone a happier weekend than my closing sentence.
Cheers to all,