What Houthi attacks in the Red Sea mean for global shipping — and conflict

Fareed Kotb/Anadolu via Getty Images Houthi rebels based in Yemen launched another attack on commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea Thursday, sending an explosive, unmanned vessel near a US Navy ship — within a day of warnings from a US-led coalition, dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian, meant to protect the area. The attacks, which have been ongoing for weeks, threaten to significantly disrupt the flow of commercial goods through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, an important route for trade between Asia and Western countries. It’s an approach that, for relatively little cost to the Houthis and their Iranian sponsors, has exposed the ineffectiveness of the US coalition response — and has ratcheted up the tension in the region, which has been increasing on multiple fronts after Hamas ’ attacks in Israel on October 7. In a statement Wednesday, the US and its 12 coalition partners issued a final warning to the Houthis that they would “bear the responsibility of the consequences” should they continue attacks on container ships transiting the maritime route. In response to that vague warning, the group detonated an explosive unmanned surface vessel (USV) in the vicinity of several commercial vessels, as well as a US Navy ship, though none of the vessels were damaged. And on Saturday, a US warship shot down a drone launched from Houthi-controlled territory “​​in international waters of the Southern Red Sea in the vicinity of multiple commercial vessels,” according to a statement from US Central Command . With the Houthis committed to antagonizing commercial vessels, the question of a possible response remains — and the coalition doesn’t have many clear options that could effectively stop the attacks without risking open conflict with Iran . Meanwhile, with Iranian support, the Houthis have shown that their approach is effective, even against the […]

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By Donato