Why US is dithering on Houthis in Red Sea

Ashish Shukla
4 min readDec 26, 2023

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

If numbers interest you, there are one too many which tell how crucial is the Bab-el Mandeb Strait (Red Sea) for trade between East and West, further transiting through Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea and onwards to Europe (see map below).

I would rather go lyrical and say we live on land but trade through waters, so if you include Straits of Hormuz and Malacca to the Bab-el Mandeb, these three are the choke points on which the world trade could sink or swim. Oil and gas anyway without which we could rub stones for spark, summon cows or camels for transport, or use moonlight to go by night as our original ancestors once did.

Now as you know, Ansar Allahs who control Yemen and whom the United States bad-mouths as “Iran-backed Houthi rebels”, have picked up the baton on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza and are giving hell to any ship or container with links to Israel. Of course, it’s a nightmare to others too, including India, since insurance companies would either be averse to insure ships through this Strait or charge a fortune. Major shipping companies like Maersk, MSC and CGM are already off the roster. Take the long detour around Africa with longer days and exorbitant prices which pinch us all.

Our daddy the United States assures us that a nine-nation multitask forces has been put in place to end this Houthi menace for the “benefit of international community and commerce.” Only, I don’t see even the immediate neighbours, like Eritrea or Somalia, nor the pillars of the US’ Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and UAE, nor for that matter Egypt, badly singed by the Red Sea blockade since Suez Canal fetches up to $1,000,000 toll, be a part of it.

So essentially this multitask force is to save Israel only. It’s not global either as nations up in arms are from West (US, UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Norway) with the other two amongst the nine — Seychelles and Bahrain — only making up numbers.

Thus the sweat is to save Israel, and not the world. But the question is: Could West free up the Red Sea?

One, Houthis have a lot of real estate to play by including the neighbouring coalitions. They dance with Iran which has at least 2,000 sea mines lying on the sea floor and are near-impossible to take out, as the Royal Navy found out with just one single smart mine neutralized in six days in the 1980s. Not to say Iran’s formidable maritime militias on highly-armed speedboats.

Thus poking Houthis amounts to stirring a hornet’s nest: We are talking here of a force which is fresh from blooding the nose of Saudi Arabia, and It’s backer the United States after an eight-year war since 2015. What happens if a few of the United States’ prized naval assets were to sink to the floor of these treacherous waters? How do you think it would then look for Biden in 2024 polls? If Houthis are attacked, do you think Iran won’t step in, with Russia and China — the latter with a major naval base in nearby Djibouti — in tow?

And how effective do you think the United States would be in protecting the sea lanes around Africa when the USS Eisenhower, and all those Tomahawk missiles and aircraft carriers, with the US Navy Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, are dithering on taking on the Houthis? And what a blow it would be to the NATO after Ukraine, impotent in Red Sea and spreading itself further thin around Cape of Good Hope?

The truth is the entire Western dominance of last 500 years has been built around its control of world’s seas. It’s this very control which is now under assault. Moving heavens in this quest is easy — not the choppy waters of world trade though which Israel has stirred up with its satanic deeds in Gaza. So daddy, attend the funeral of Ukraine and forget Taiwan for a while!

But then it had to happen. The longer Israel mires itself in Gaza — its’ operation is now in its 80th day — more Arabs would have a renewed resolve, encouraged by how vulnerable Israel suddenly appears. Beyond the censorship, the word is daily filtering in on Israel’s casualties. The Israeli citizens feel trapped and demonstrations are gaining in volume and decibel.

Longer the United States’ puts up with Israel’s genocide of Palestinians, defying the world and the UN resolutions, more the destinies of the two are entwined towards a singular fate. If the United States abandons Israel, the latter is as good as gone. If United States chooses to take the bull by the horn, attacking Houthis, Hamas or Hezbollahs, more are the chances of this becoming a showdown with Iran which almost certainly would bring in Russia and China.

Worse, if West chooses to go around Africa to trade with East, letting Houthis have their way, US would be dared by many non-state actors around the world. Hyenas don’t take long to get the injured beast.

Iran is pivotal in overall scheme of things for those whom Washington considers its enemies. The United States would think twice before forcing the issue. First Ukraine and then Gaza — we are witnessing events which future generations would remember as ones that checkmated the Western Civilization.

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Ashish Shukla

Author, International journalist, Publishes NewsBred.com as antidote to media lies