America Gears Up to Fight the Houthis in the Red Sea

Written by Anthony Constantini

What’s happening: The United States has moved an aircraft carrier strike group into the Persian Gulf in response to attacks on commercial ships by Houthi Islamists in the Red Sea. The U.S. also announced an international naval coalition of ten nations that will counter attacks on shipping in the region.

  • Catch up: The Houthis — an Iran-allied Islamist group controlling western Yemen, which borders the Red Sea — recently ramped up their attacks, via missiles and drones, after Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza.

Why it matters: Although the attacks on ships in the Red Sea are intended to hurt Israel’s economy, the Houthis are significantly hampering global trade; 30 percent of all international shipping containers pass through the region.

Already having an effect: Multiple major shipping corporations have decided to re-route their containers around Africa to avoid the Red Sea. This will inevitably increase shipping costs, which will likely be passed on to consumers.

America’s response: In a show of restraint to avoid provoking Iran, America and its allies have shot down drones that approached only their ships or cargo vessels. However, the increased attacks are forcing them to consider missile strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen.

  • Playing defense or offense?: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was careful not to label the new naval coalition as purely defensive: phrases like “collective action” and “bolstering regional security” could be descriptors of either a defensive operation or an offensive one.