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Dan Shapiro: Houthi attacks ‘almost entirely unrelated to Israel’

“To be clear, any such attacks would be entirely illegitimate anyway,” the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East said.

Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, participates in the Meir Dagan Conference for Strategy and Defense at Netanya College on March 21, 2018. Photo by Meir Vaaknin/Flash90.
Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, participates in the Meir Dagan Conference for Strategy and Defense at Netanya College on March 21, 2018. Photo by Meir Vaaknin/Flash90.

The Houthis have carried out at least 48 attacks on commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea since Nov. 19, Dan Shapiro, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, testified on Tuesday.

Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, addressed a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism on “Yemen and Red Sea security issues.”

“Despite the Houthis’ claims, these attacks are almost entirely unrelated to Israel and Israeli-affiliated shipping,” Shapiro testified. “And to be clear, any such attacks would be entirely illegitimate anyway.”

Timothy Lenderking, U.S. special envoy for Yemen at the State Department, agreed.

“These attacks on commercial vessels are acts of terrorism. The Houthis are not even adhering to their stated goals. They are mostly hitting ships with no connection whatsoever to Israel, with over 55 countries affected to date, and driving up the difficulty and cost of delivering humanitarian aid to people around the world—including, of course, to Yemenis themselves,” Lenderking testified.

The Houthis’ “indiscriminate” attacks have “threatened the free flow of commerce through the Red Sea—a bedrock of the global economy,” Shapiro testified.

“The Houthis have also fired missiles against Israel that have threatened or caused damage to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Shapiro testified that Iran doesn’t control the Houthis, as it does other aligned groups in Iraq and Syria, “but it certainly has the choice to provide or withhold support to the Houthis, without which the Houthis would struggle to effectively track and strike vessels navigating shipping lanes through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.”

“We have made it clear to Iran that we hold it accountable for attacks by its partners and proxies, and believe Iranian leaders are aware of the consequences should these attacks result in U.S. casualties,” he said.

Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, also spoke about the Houthi attacks during a press briefing on Tuesday.

“It’s the latest in a long string of reckless attacks by the Houthis on entities and interests that have nothing to do with the conflict in Gaza,” Miller said. “Just as when we saw the Houthis attack ships that were bringing food to the people of Yemen, these attacks are on entities that do nothing to help Palestinians who are suffering, are in no way connected to the conflict in Gaza and they should stop immediately.”

“We will continue to hold them accountable for the attacks,” he said.

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