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Increasing Geopolitical Risk: Latest Attack by Houthis

US and UK Consider Response to Houthi Attack

The recent attack launched from Yemen by the Houthi group has once again brought the spotlight on the ongoing conflict in the region and its implications for global security. This article aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the nature of the attack, its impact on shipping in the Red Sea, and the response from the international community and the United Nations Security Council. Additionally, it will explore the potential threat to the Suez Canal, efforts to counter Houthi missile and drone capabilities, and the implications for the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

The recent attack by the Houthi group has raised concerns about the potential threat to the Suez Canal and international shipping. The strategic importance of the Suez Canal as a vital maritime route for global trade underscores the significance of ensuring its security and uninterrupted operation. The Houthi group’s aggressive actions targeting shipping in the Red Sea directly impact the safety and stability of this crucial waterway, prompting a reassessment of security measures and contingency plans to prevent disruptions to maritime traffic. In additon, this has forced shipping to use the costlier route around the Cape of Good Hope increasing costs of goods with a potential impact on inflation and economies.

Our view is that even though the US and UK are considering a response against the Houthis in Yemen, we don’t believe this is likely. Both countries do not want to get involved in a long prolonged military escalation. In addition, the current Saudi-Houthi cease-fire could collapse if things escalate. Thus, a less risky strategy of pursuing diplomatic channels and putting pressure indirectly on the Houthis to scale things down.

Finally, this is a presidential election year in the US, and we cannot see Biden being keen to get involved in a long protracted military campaign in the Middle East. It is simply less costly in political terms to just keep shooting down the Houthi drones and missles.

Update:  The UK is holding a cabinet meeting according to a BBC to consider a joint military strike with the US against the Houthis.  In our view, this would be a very limited air strike with the goal of very low casualties on Houthi assets like boats, storage areas for weapons, etc.  If the Houthis continue, then this could be scaled up to hit command and control centers etc.

The Houthis have ignored the warnings by the US and its allies which could be a result of hubris with the latest attack being the most intense.  The danger is that if the US and UK strike the Houthis, then this could be used as propraganda by the Houthis especially if there are many casualties form the strikes.  Thus, if there is military action it will be very limited.

For the financial markets and in particular the oil markets, this will add to the geopolitical risk premium on the price of oil which is currently about $3 per barrel.   If tensions, rise further then the oil market expects that oil could hit £110, which would be about a $30 plus geopolitical risk premium over current prices in the low 70s.

Latest Update:  the US and UK hit targets in Yemen,  with minimum casualties of around 5 dead and 6 injured.  Around 12 sites were targeted with 60 strikes.  The fact that casualties were kept to a minimum is important since it will prevent the Houthis using this to stir up unrest within the wider region by spinning this into a narrative tied to the Israeli – Hamas conflict.   As estimated, oil is a bit above $80 a barrel (Brent), a gain of about 4%.  Also, oil companies gained about 2% with European shipping firms gaining about 4.8% (Hapag-Lloyd AG ).

Who are the Houthis?

The Houthi rebels, also known as Ansar Allah, are a Zaidi Shia political and armed movement that emerged in northern Yemen in the early 1990s. The group is named after its founder, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, and it follows a distinct ideology based on Zaidi Shia beliefs, advocating for greater autonomy for northern Yemen and opposing the influence of external powers in the country. The Houthi rebels have significantly expanded their influence since the Arab Spring in 2011, and they are currently in control of the capital, Sana’a, and other key areas in Yemen.

Despite attempts at political dialogue and power-sharing agreements, the relationship between the Houthi group and the Yemeni government has been characterized by ongoing conflict and instability. The Houthi rebels have faced military offensives from the Yemeni government, which has further escalated the tensions in the region. Moreover, the international community, particularly neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has viewed the Houthi group as a proxy of Iran, contributing to the complexity of the situation in Yemen.

The Houthi group’s actions have raised concerns and garnered attention from the international community. The group’s use of ballistic missiles and drones, particularly in targeting commercial shipping in the Red Sea, has sparked a debate about the motivations and implications of their aggressive tactics, leading to calls for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Yemen.

What was the nature of the recent attack?

The recent attack launched by the Houthi rebels involved a coordinated effort using both drones and missiles to target commercial shipping in the Red Sea. The details of the attack revealed the sophistication of the Houthi group’s capabilities as they deployed sea viper missiles and utilized unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out the assault. The attack had a significant impact on shipping in the Red Sea, raising concerns about the safety and security of vessels navigating through the region.

The international community swiftly condemned the attack, highlighting the need for a comprehensive response to address the immediate threat posed by the Houthi group’s aggressive actions. The attack on commercial shipping has not only jeopardized global commerce but also undermined navigational rights and freedoms in the strategic waterways, including the potential risk to the Suez Canal, a critical maritime chokepoint for international trade.

In response to the attack, efforts have been intensified to counter the Houthi group’s missile and drone capabilities. Security measures for commercial vessels in the region have been bolstered to defend against potential future attacks, emphasizing the need for a coordinated and robust defense strategy to ensure the safety of maritime activities in the Red Sea area.

What is the response from the United Nations Security Council?

The United Nations Security Council has been actively deliberating the recent Houthi attack and its implications for regional stability and international security. The Council’s discussions have centered on assessing the severity of the threat posed by the Houthi group’s actions and formulating an effective response to address the escalating tensions in the region. The deliberations have focused on the urgent need to enforce sanctions against the Houthi rebels and hold them accountable for their violations of international law.

The Security Council has reiterated its calls for a de-escalation of hostilities and renewed efforts to pursue peace and stability in Yemen. Additionally, the Council has emphasized the imperative of upholding international norms and regulations that safeguard the safety and security of maritime activities in the Red Sea. The enforcement of sanctions against the Houthi rebels aims to signal a clear message that illegal attacks on commercial shipping are completely unacceptable and will bear consequences.

Calls for de-escalation and peace efforts in Yemen have been reiterated by the Security Council, emphasizing the necessity of pursuing diplomatic solutions to the ongoing conflict. The Council’s unified stance on condemning the Houthi attack and promoting peaceful resolutions underscores the collective commitment to addressing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and restoring stability in the region.

What are the implications for the ongoing conflict in Yemen?

The implications of the recent Houthi attack extend beyond the immediate impact on maritime security and global commerce to the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The attack has heightened concerns about its adverse effects on the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, exacerbating the suffering of the civilian population and impeding access to essential aid and resources. The escalation of hostilities in the region has further complicated efforts to address the pressing humanitarian needs and has underscored the urgency of finding a diplomatic resolution to the Yemeni crisis.

The potential for an escalation of hostilities in the region has raised alarm about the wider conflict in the Red Sea and its implications for regional stability. Efforts to navigate a tentative cease-fire between the Houthi group and the Yemeni government have faced significant challenges, highlighting the complexity of the political and military dynamics in Yemen. The prospects for a diplomatic resolution to the Yemeni crisis remain contingent on the willingness of all parties to engage in constructive dialogue and prioritize the interests of the Yemeni people.

Thus, the US has to take into account the current Saudi-Houthi cease-fire. Therefore any actions by the US will certainly be constrainted by Saudi interests. As mentioned earlier, the US does not want to be bogged down in another Middle Eastern war.

In conclusion, the recent Houthi attack from Yemen has underscored the urgency of addressing the evolving security challenges in the Red Sea and the need for a comprehensive, coordinated response to safeguard maritime activities and global trade. The implications of the attack for global security, the ongoing conflict in Yemen, and the humanitarian situation in the region underscore the necessity of pursuing diplomatic solutions and promoting peace efforts to restore stability and mitigate the risks posed by the Houthi group’s aggressive actions.