US, UK launch retaliatory strikes against Houthis in Yemen

The U.S. and the U.K. conducted a spate of retaliatory strikes on Thursday against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to media reports.

The Associated Press reported that Washington and London bombed more than a dozen sites in Yemen used by the Iranian-backed Houthis.

U.S. and U.K. forces hit targets with Tomahawk missiles fired by warships and missiles from fighter jets, according to The Associated Press, targeting logistical hubs, supply facilities and air defense systems.

The strike is the first time the U.S. has carried out direct, offensive military action against the Houthis since the rebel group began attacking merchant ships in the Red Sea in late November.

Until Thursday, the U.S. held back from attacking the Houthis in Yemen. Washington set up a multi-nation maritime task force last month to protect commercial shipping, but the Houthis kept attacking ships and vowed the task force would not deter them.

Earlier this week, the Houthis targeted commercial ships as well as U.S. and U.K. boats with the largest drone and missile attack yet. Allied U.S. and U.K. forces shot down around 21 missiles and drones in the attack. 

The strike in Yemen is likely to provoke both the Houthis and Iran, and threatens to spiral into a wider war. The Middle East has seen widespread conflict since the breakout of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza in early October, including more than a hundred attacks on U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq.

Iranian-backed groups claim to be standing in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza by attacking the U.S. in the region. The Houthis in particular say they are targeting Israel-based ships or boats headed to Israel. 

Iran views the Houthis as one of its more prized proxy groups in the Middle East and is likely to express anger at the strikes on Thursday in Yemen. Iran and the Houthis reacted furiously when the U.S. sunk three Houthi boats in the Red Sea at the end of December. 

The Biden administration has faced immense pressure to stop the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, which have disrupted global trade. Around 10 percent of commercial shipping goes through the Red Sea, and the Houthi pressure has forced major shipping companies to reroute around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.

Washington has also faced questions of whether the task force would deter the Houthis and protect shipping boats, and whether offensive strikes were needed to stop the Houthis. 

It’s not clear how impactful the strikes have been on Houthi targets in Yemen. The rebel group has fought for years against the Yemeni government and is a battle-tested group, but are likely to be extremely vulnerable to joint U.S. and U.K. military action.

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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