December 21, 2023

Houthis Disrupt Supply Lines, Mock Biden

The Iranian-backed terror group in Yemen threatens shipping bottlenecks and makes the U.S. look weak.

When Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States, he was faced with a state-sponsored group of pirates plaguing shipping lanes in Tripoli and targeting U.S. shipping vessels. They were known as the Barbary Pirates. Jefferson had a choice: pay tribute to the pirates or go to war. The young country couldn’t afford the exorbitant amount the pirates were demanding, so Jefferson chose war — and won.

Today, America and the free international trading community face a similar situation. Iran, the biggest troublemaker in the Middle East, has terror proxies all over the region. In Gaza, it’s Hamas; in Lebanon, it’s Hezbollah; and in Yemen, it’s a group of pirates called the Houthis. Under President Donald Trump, the Houthis were a designated terror group. Bt under the disastrous helmsmanship of President Joe Biden, the Houthis are no longer on that list. Why? Because Biden was doing all he could to make an Iran nuclear deal happen.

Shortly after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, the Houthis were emboldened by the West’s lackluster and confused response and took that opportunity of moral blindness to start attacking ships in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea. This is a strategic shipping bottleneck, and the U.S. — as the global hegemony — has a responsibility to protect it from such incursions to ensure free trade. The response has been … slow.

It was only after several ships had been seized or damaged and the U.S. military in the area had shot down several drones that a “red line” was finally drawn.

Over the weekend, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declared, “Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop.” Austin went on to explain: “This is an international challenge that demands collective action. Therefore today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative.”

Austin’s demands that Iran must stop could be interpreted as a red line. However, there have been few ramifications for the actions of the Houthis thus far, which leads many to wonder if this is yet again all talk with no real deterrent for Iran. If all the coalition military vessels are doing is intercepting ballistic missiles or shooting down drones, it’s little more than a Band-Aid solution.

An international coalition comprising the U.S., UK, Italy, Canada, France, Bahrain, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain is going to be providing protection to commercial vessels at that particular bottleneck and hopefully deter any of these pirates.

But this action is a little late. Major shipping companies such as Maersk, BP, Hapag-Lloyd, and CGM Group have diverted their vessels the long way around Africa to mitigate the known risk of the Houthi pirates. These companies are hedging their bets because if they are depending on the military might and political will of Joe Biden and the U.S. — the political will, in particular, being excessively and demonstratively lacking — that is an even bigger gamble. This has projected ramifications for countries such as the UK that are now fearful of a further rise in prices, particularly on gas and oil. It will also eventually affect the prices and scarcity of goods here in the U.S. should the Houthi attacks continue to be successful.

As the Wall Street Journal editors also explain: “It’s good to work with allies, but the truth is that this effort will depend largely on U.S. military power and political will. The details of how the task force will operate aren’t clear, and many of the countries barely have a navy.”

Operation Prosperity Guardian is a tepid gesture that is consistent with Joe Biden’s foreign policy tactics. By not wanting to escalate conflicts via direct action, he makes conflicts worse by pussyfooting around the problems (see the Russia-Ukraine war).

The Houthis aren’t intimidated by the new international coalition. Their chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdel-Salam, posted this on social media after Austin’s announcement: “The American-formed coalition is to protect Israel and militarize the sea without any justification, and will not stop Yemen from continuing its legitimate operations in support of Gaza.” He added this well-calculated threat: “Whoever seeks to expand the conflict must bear the consequences of his actions.”

This is a ragtag group of pirates/terrorists on a level with Hezbollah. They are not an army, but they can cause international annoyance at the behest of Iran. It seems pretty clear that Biden is going to do little more than nothing for fear of Iran.

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