The US & UK Attacks On The Houthis Won't Work
At least, not the way you think they will.
For a while now, the Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking ships bound for Israel via the Suez Canal in an attempt to scupper, as they see it, Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip. But, this has caused economic damage to not just Israel but many Western nations that supply and support it, as their ships are valid targets for the Houthis. As such, it should be of no surprise that the US and UK have used brute force to solve this problem and carried out counterstrike bombing raids and missile attacks on the Houthis. But this situation is far more complex than that, and these strikes simply won’t work. Let me explain.
Let’s start with the Houthis attacks’ impact on the US and UK. The Suez Canal is critical for shipping many essential resources from Asia to Europe and Eastern North America, significantly reducing the distance it needs to travel. As Yemen sits at the opening of the Red Sea, which leads to the Suez Canal, they have massive strategic control over this pinch point, meaning even a minor threat from them can massively impact the West’s global trade.
As such, their attacks have already forced manufacturing in the West to slow down or, in the case of Volvo and Tesla, stop altogether due to the lack of supplies as ships are rerouted or held up. This, in turn, threatens to increase inflation in the West, which is already high, and significantly slow down Western economies.
With upcoming elections threatening leadership in the US and UK, leaders can’t be seen to take this economic damage lightly and have to save face by trying to resolve it. Furthermore, the financial institutions and major investors, which include media moguls and oil tycoons, that have backed these leaders are desperate to mitigate losses as much as possible and could turn on their favourite candidate if they don’t. Hence, the counter-attacks against the Houthis, even though they haven’t targeted us.
This brings up the morals of this situation, which are far from transparent.
You see, Yemen is a signatory of the 1948 Genocide Convention that solidified Genocide as a crime in international law. However, this convention also solidified the support of genocide and not trying to stop genocide as a crime. As the West is a heavy supplier of weaponry to Israel, which it is using to cause massive damage to the people of Gaza, many are arguing that the Houthis are just acting in accordance with the 1948 Convention and that we are breaking it. This point of view is further solidified by South Africa’s brilliant case against Israel in the ICJ.
However, the Houthis are far from moral. They are deeply antisemitic, nationalist to the point of violence, and guilty of many war crimes. They have repeatedly stated that they want the eradication of Israel in its entirety, which would break the 1948 Convention. These heinous motives just so happen to align them with the 1948 Convention on the matter of Gaza.
So, the Houthis are far from a moral force here. Yet, in the greater context, there is an argument that they are acting more morally than us. We are supporting a nation that is accurately accused of genocide, after all. But, the reason for our support and our attacks on the Houthis might be linked.
You see, our militaries know these attacks won’t do anything. The Houthis have been under attack for years and have thrived under far heavier firepower than we are throwing their way. What’s more, it’s not escalating our attack will do anything. Our track record of squashing Islamist movements in the Middle East is rocky, to say the least. Just look at our interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries that didn’t work.
This is where I slip on my tin hat and ask if it’s obvious our attacks won’t work, then what are they trying to achieve?
Well, many have pointed to the fact that our actions against the Houthis risk escalating the Israeli-Hamas conflict and spreading it through the region. You see, while Israel is supported by the US and UK, the Houthis are supported by Iran, which in turn supports Hezbollah, which operates from Lebanon, which shares a border with and already has high tensions with Israel. Meaning, they could all join the conflict if Houthi attacks continue. But Iraq now has very close ties with Iran, meaning they could be folded into the conflict too.
The West doesn’t support Israel out of morals. Joe Biden himself has stated it is precisely to protect our interests in the region. The West’s only interest in the Middle East is its vast oil reserves. In fact, there is a long history of the West toppling Middle Eastern rulers and governments that threaten to halt the oil supply to the West or influence the oil market too much. Just look at the Gulf Wars.
Well, OPEC, a group of oil-producing nations that band together to set oil production targets, including Iraq and Iran, recently decided to cut oil production voluntarily. While this cut was motivated by stabilising the oil market, it should worry the US. In 1973, OPEC placed an embargo on the US for its support of Israel in the fourth Arab-Israeli war, quadrupling the price of oil in the US, and crippling its economy. So, there is a precedent of OPEC protecting Arab interests against Israel and fending the US and its Western allies off with devastating impacts on the US.
With this in mind, do we really think the attacks on the Houthis are only about protecting our economy?
If that was the only motivation, surely we would reduce or hold back our arms supply to Israel, particularly as we should under the 1948 Genocide Convention, and Israel has more than enough arms to protect itself from Hamas. This would be diplomatically challenging to pull off, but it would ensure our ships and our economies’ safety without risking an Arab war against Israel.
Instead, it looks more like our attacks on the Houthis are a threat to OPEC and the Arab world. They are effectively saying, “Don’t stand in Israel’s way or embargo our oil supply like you did last time; we will start a regional war in which you suffer otherwise”.
What’s more, Netanyahu and his Western supporters seem all too happy to start such a war, as it could be a route to getting more Middle Eastern territory under Western influence via Israel. If Israel could capture land from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and other oil-rich nations, it would be a boon for them and the US.
Okay, now I am taking the tin hat off. Do I really think this is the grand plan of the West? Not entirely. Our leaders are far from the voice or hand of morality when it comes to the Israel-Hamas war, but I don’t think this heinous Machiavellian stance is their sole motivator. I think the idea of fending off any rebuttal from OPEC or other Arab nations is definitely a factor in their decision-making, though.
But the fact remains that these attacks on the Houthis won’t fix the damage they are doing to our economy. Our governments have to realise that they can’t rule over the Middle East with absolute power, especially while they prop up Israel and its horrific acts in Gaza. Instead, they need to be far more diplomatic. If they had threatened arms embargoes against Israel if their conflict against Hamas veered towards collective punishment or not vetoed landslide international calls for a desperately needed humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, this wouldn’t have happened. As such, this Houthi situation is directly caused by Western diplomatic ineptitude. It can’t be fixed by the same ineptitude. Instead, it will take a careful hand, not giving Israel carte blanche, recognising the reality of what the Israeli state is doing and holding them accountable whilst also not undermining their security. This is a challenging line to walk, but it is the path we must take to protect our economy and keep our position within the global political stage.
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