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Houthis Continue to Attack Ships in the Red Sea Raising Tensions

Courtesy of The Times of Israel
Courtesy of The Times of Israel
Courtesy of FOX News
Courtesy of Naval News

On Monday, January 15th, according to U.S. central command, a missile was launched that struck an American-operated cargo ship the Gibraltar Eagle in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. Fortunately, the Gibraltar Eagle sustained minor damage, and no injuries were reported. 2 days later an anti-ship cruise missile was launched at an American warship, the USS Laboon an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Luckily, the missile was intercepted and destroyed by U.S. fighter aircraft. The Houthis are responsible for both attacks. The Houthis are an anti-Israeli terrorist group based out of Yemen in the Middle East. These two attacks are two of many, however.

Since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis have attacked more than 2 dozen international cargo ships. The attacks are a result of the Houthis attempting to pressure Iran to stop their attacks on the Gaza Strip. There have also been several more attempted attacks on U.S. warships. These attacks have included drones and missiles all launched by the Houthis. Iran is responsible for supplying these advanced weapons to the Houthis. The attacks on U.S. warships are retaliation to the U.S. and UK carrying out air and naval counter-strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen. These strikes by the U.S. and U.K. began on January 11th and were a result of the Houthis ignoring repeated attempts to stop attacking commercial vessels. However, as of now, many experts believe the Houthis will not stop their attacks on vessels such as Dakota Wood, the Senior Research Fellow for Defense Programs at the Heritage Foundation. 

These attacks by the Houthis on ships have brought major issues and problems to the world. Since so many vessels have been attacked, major shipping companies such as Maersk have announced plans to avoid the Red Sea and the Suez Canal entirely. This decision could divert roughly $200 billion in trade. Now many shipping companies are choosing to sail around the Horn of Africa to reach their destination. This decision requires more fuel and is more time-consuming. The longer route can cost up to $1 million more. As of November, over 150 ships have already decided to take this longer, more costly route. 

Because the Red Sea is such an important route for global shipping. Roughly one-third of all global shipping goes through the Red Sea. So any disruption to trade in the area can send ripples throughout the global economy. An example of this is energy. A majority of things around the world are powered by natural gases and oil.12% of all oil and natural gas travels through the Red Sea. So ships avoiding the Red Sea because of the Houthis can cause the prices of both resources to skyrocket and the demand for them to become higher. As of now, prices have not been raised yet but they are expected to soon. Europe is also expected to experience the effects of the new route earlier than other countries.

Now there are a couple of things that can be done to prevent the attacks on ships avoiding prices rising. One major effort to stop Houthi attacks on vessels is the United States launching a twenty-country naval task force to protect commercial vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. 2 U.S. Carrier Strike groups were also deployed to the Middle East to provide cover for Ships and to protect U.S. bases in the Middle East. This strategy has limited effect as not every vessel can be escorted and the Houthis have been undeterred by the movement. Furthermore, the U.S. and UK carried out naval and aerial strikes on more than thirty Houthi targets in Yemen. Yet still, the Houthis have been unfazed by the strikes. President Joe Biden had said that the strikes on Yemen were not going to stop and would continue “as necessary.” 

However, these strikes may cause more harm than good. The attacks have raised tensions further between the U.S. and the Houthis and there’s a chance of regional conflict breaking out. Some people such as a 20-year veteran with the USDA Harry Oh believe more can be done to stop the Houthi attacks. When asked, “How do you think the attacks on vessels can be stopped?” Mr. Oh said, “I believe we should attack Yemen more to pressure them into stopping their attacks.”  Mr. Oh also believes that the attacks on vessels will eventually cause economic issues for the U.S. But as of now, the outcome of these attacks are unclear.

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