Why hasn’t Biden retaliated for attacks on U.S. ships in the Middle East?


To their credit, the Associated Press is asking a question that I’ve been pondering myself this week. We have seen multiple missile and drone attacks by the Houthi rebels in Yemen against American naval vessels and civilian shipping in the past few weeks. Our military intelligence can clearly see where the attacks are coming from. So why haven’t we retaliated against them? As the AP points out, we have launched a few strikes against Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq and Syria after they launched attacks. Why is Joe Biden so reluctant to pull the trigger against the Houthis? And who are the Houthis, anyway? As with many things in the Middle East these days, the answers are… complicated.

When Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched missiles and hit three commercial ships in the southern Red Sea last weekend, it triggered an immediate question: Will the U.S. military strike back?

The Houthis have sharply escalated their attacks against ships as they sail toward the narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait. And U.S. Navy ships have shot down an array of drones headed their way and believed to have been launched by the militant group from territory it controls in Yemen.

But so far, the U.S. has avoided military retaliation — a marked difference from its multiple strikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria that have fired rockets, missiles and drones at bases housing American forces in both countries.

As to who the Houthis are, I covered that last month while discussing the ridiculous debate in Congress over whether or not the group should be put back on the terrorist list. (Of course, they are terrorists by definition.) So you can go back and read that if you missed it if you wish. The AP article has some deeper background on them. Basically, they are a Shiite clan from northern Yemen that ousted the Sunni government from Yemen’s capital about ten years ago. They are funded almost entirely by Iran.

In terms of a potential retaliatory strike, we should first keep in mind that Biden’s earlier strikes in Syria and Iraq were rather milquetoast in comparison to the terrorist attacks being launched. He seemed to need to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing anything in response to Iran’s provocations. But at least he was willing to do something eventually. The complete absence of a response to the Houthis must involve something else.

The AP analysis reports that White House officials have previously claimed that the Houthis “haven’t technically targeted U.S. vessels or forces.” The captains of our destroyers that have been swatting down cruise missiles and drones would probably disagree. They also note that “no one has been reported hurt in the Houthi incidents.” That may be accurate, but some of the commercial ships have taken significant damage. Neither of those points excuses the lack of a response.

The White House has thus far defended our lack of a response by saying they don’t want to “upend the shaky truce in Yemen.” They are also worried about escalating the war in Gaza by upsetting a fragile ceasefire between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis in Yemen, who attacked the Saudis previously. Neither of these excuses makes much sense. If we were going to be backing anyone in Yemen (not that we should), it would have to be the legitimate government that the Houthis drove out of the capital. Striking the Houthis would help that cause. As for the peace between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, how is that our problem if we’re not hitting any targets in Suadi territory?

I’ll offer an alternate explanation that the AP likely steered away from for obvious reasons. The Houthis are backed by Iran and work with Iran’s Republican Guard. Joe Biden has been trying to cozy up to Iran since he took office, hoping to tempt them back into Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal. He doesn’t like to tick off Iran, no matter how awful they are and he’s clearly already nervous about backing Israel too strongly in the current war, likely at least partially for the same reason. While he’ll probably never say it out loud, that’s probably the main reason we haven’t hit the Houthis yet. Or at least that’s my hot take on the subject.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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