US-UK airstrikes risk strengthening Houthi rebels’ position in Yemen and the region

Houthi supporters rally in Yemen following U.S.-U.K. airstrikes. Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images The U.S.- and U.K.-led strikes on the rebel Houthi group in Yemen represent a dramatic new turn in the Middle East conflict – one that could have implications throughout the region. The attacks of Jan. 11, 2024, hit around 60 targets at 16 sites, according to the U.S. Air Force’s Mideast command , including in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, the main port of Hodeida and Saada, the birthplace of the Houthis in the country’s northwest. The military action follows weeks of warning by the U.S. to the Houthis, ordering them to stop attacking commercial ships in the strategic strait of Bab el-Mandeb in the Red Sea. The Houthis – an armed militia backed by Iran that controls most of northern Yemen following a bitter near-decadelong civil war – have also launched missiles and drones toward Israel . As an expert on Yemeni politics , I believe the U.S. attacks on the Houthis will have wide implications – not only for the Houthis and Yemen’s civil war, but also for the broader region where America maintains key allies. In short, the Houthis stand to gain politically from these U.S.-U.K. attacks as they support a narrative that the group has been cultivating: that they are freedom fighters fighting Western imperialism in the Muslim world. For Houthis, a new purpose The Israel-Gaza conflict has reinvigorated the Houthis – giving them a raison d’etre at a time when their status at home was diminishing. By the time of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants in Israel, the Houthis’ long conflict with Saudi Arabia, which backs the Yemeni government ousted by the Houthis at the start of Yemen’s civil war in 2014, had quieted after an April 2022 cease-fire drastically reduced fighting. Houthi […]

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By Donato