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Western strikes on Houthis ‘a message to Iran’

“The IRGC made a mistake. They crossed the thin red line between being daring and too aggressive,” says Israeli analyst.

Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer “USS Carney” respond to a simulated small-craft vessel during an anti-terrorism drill on Dec. 6, 2023. Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau/U.S. Navy.
Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer “USS Carney” respond to a simulated small-craft vessel during an anti-terrorism drill on Dec. 6, 2023. Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau/U.S. Navy.

The United States and Britain launched airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen in the early hours of Friday morning in what one analyst described as a warning to Iran.

“The Houthi attacks on international shipping are something the West can’t ignore. Last night was only a warning. The Western coalition doesn’t want to go to a heavy war with Iran, but they wanted to deliver a message,” said Yair Ansbacher, a fellow at the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy.

Iran, through its proxies, has been trying to encircle Israel, Ansbacher explained. “But the world is showing it won’t tolerate this, and this is good for Israel and good for the world and all people who want freedom,” he added.

According to Ansbacher, the strikes in Yemen won’t have any bearing on Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, “because Israel needs to do in Gaza what Israel needs to do.”

The U.S. and U.K. strikes also come against the backdrop of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp seizing an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, he noted.

“The IRGC made a mistake,” said Ansbacher. “They crossed the thin red line between being daring and too aggressive.”

According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Friday’s strikes targeted Houthi radar and air defense systems, as well as storage and launch sites for the militia’s drones and missiles.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the strikes “are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history.”

The strikes came on the heels of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Wednesday denouncing the Houthi attacks. The resolution was approved by a vote of 11-0, with Russia, China, Algeria and Mozambique abstaining.

The Houthis vowed in early December to target any Israel-bound ship in the Red Sea, regardless of its ownership. Since Oct. 17, they have attacked or harassed 27 ships in international waters, according to CENTCOM. The majority of vessels attacked have not had any apparent connection to Israel.

Among the attacks was the November hijacking of the MV Galaxy Leader. The cargo ship and its crew of 25 are being held hostage in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah.

From bases along the Yemeni coast, the Houthis have attacked and harassed ships in the Red Sea as they traverse the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a narrow maritime choke point between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. The majority of the world’s oil passes through the strait, from the Indian Ocean towards the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea.

The attacks have forced some major shipping companies to reroute around Africa, interrupting a crucial global trade route connecting Asia and the Middle East to Europe.

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