U.S. and allies strike Yemen: Late yesterday, news broke that the U.S. and several allies, including Britain, carried out strikes at Houthi targets—airports, bases, and places where the militants store weapons—in Yemen.
For months, tensions in the Middle East have been held at bay, at least from the perspective of U.S. involvement. Now, no more.
For months, Yemeni Houthis—backed by Iran—have been targeting ships in the Red Sea, claiming that the ships are Israel-affiliated and that, out of support for Hamas, they will attack them. This has snarled global shipping and provoked smaller-scale military responses from the U.S.
Just two weeks ago, Houthis attacked the Maersk Hangzhou, and American carrier group helicopters responded to the crew’s distress signal. Houthis and Americans exchanged fire, and U.S. forces sank three of the four Houthi boats, killing nearly a dozen people.
Houthis are not technically designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. because, in 2021, the Biden administration removed the classification due to concerns that the label would impede aid shipments to a country torn apart by civil war.
“These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “More than 50 nations have been affected in 27 attacks on international commercial shipping. Crews from more than 20 countries have been threatened or taken hostage in acts of piracy. More than 2,000 ships have been forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea—which can cause weeks of delays in product shipping times. And on January 9, Houthis launched their largest attack to date—directly targeting American ships.”
“It’s not possible for us not to respond to these operations,” a Houthi spokesman said yesterday. “We are more determined to target ships linked to Israel, and we will not back down from that,” he added. Hamas called the strikes an “act of terrorism,” saying that America and Britain may experience “repercussions on the security of the region.”
Some members of Congress are appropriately raising concerns about how this was authorized:
Big picture: “Fighting piracy to protect international maritime trade is something the U.S. has been doing since its inception,” writes Noah Smith at Noahpinion.
“For the past two decades, the U.S. has dismissed the Houthis as a nuisance,” write Kenneth M. Pollack and Katherine Zimmerman in the Wall Street Journal. “Washington recoiled when the Saudis and Emiratis intervened in Yemen against them in 2015, and the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations have tried to end the fighting with minimal exertion regardless of the outcome. Americans have tended to see the civil war as a humanitarian catastrophe and a breeding ground for terrorists. Our position therefore has been that all that mattered was peace—not who won or on what terms.”
“So far, there have been no reports of the number of casualties caused by the US and British strikes,” writes Antiwar‘s Dave DeCamp. “The US and its allies have a history of killing civilians in Yemen, as the UN estimated in 2021 that about 377,000 people were killed by the US-backed Saudi/UAE war against the Houthis that started in 2015. More than half died of starvation and disease caused by the blockade and the coalition’s brutal bombing campaign.”
Yesterday’s strikes in Yemen “risk shattering a fragile truce between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition that’s held since April 2022, although the Saudis have distanced themselves from the US anti-Houthi activity in the Red Sea.”
Lawful undertakings? Not long ago, the United States seized the oil cargo—1 million barrels of crude oil, to be exact—on the ship Suez Rajan over a dispute involving sanctions and Iran’s nuclear program. Yesterday, the Iranian Navy boarded and seized the ship off the coast of Oman. The crew—18 Filipinos and one Greek—has not been heard from since. “Iran’s state-run television acknowledged the seizure late Thursday afternoon, hours after armed men boarded it, linking it to the earlier oil seizure,” reports the Associated Press.
The navy’s “seizure of the oil tanker does not constitute hijacking; rather, it is a lawful undertaking sanctioned by a court order and corresponds to the theft of Iran’s very own oil,” Iran’s U.N. mission spokesman told The Associated Press. Uh, OK, whatever you say, Iran.
Scenes from New York: A public elementary school in Brooklyn was displaying a map with Israel erased and replaced by Palestine, reports The Free Press.
- This should disturb anyone who cares about bias in journalism:
- As if anyone cares what junior staffers think (and if they feel so convicted, maybe they should sign their damn names instead of hiding behind anonymity):
- “US regulators for the first time approved exchange-traded funds that invest directly in Bitcoin, a move heralded as a landmark event for the roughly $1.7 trillion digital-asset sector that will broaden access to the largest cryptocurrency on Wall Street and beyond,” reports Bloomberg.
- On Saturday, almost 20 million Taiwanese voters will head to the polls to elect their new president and legislature.
- Weird AI applications:
- Speaking of: “It’s already time to think about an AI tax” declares one big-brained thinker over at Financial Times.
- Relevant to some of the Social Security chatter during Wednesday night’s debate: