This article was first published in Spanish on Jan. 10, just as the U.S. and British imperialists began bombing attacks on Yemen, a country with nearly the same area and population as Afghanistan. The author is a consultant and international analyst, a former Director of International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ambassador to Nicaragua for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Translated by the author and edited by Workers World staff.
The transnational media have spread the idea that the Houthis act under the influence of the government of Iran. Neither Iran nor the Houthis [Ansarallah] have denied belonging to an axis of resistance to imperialism, colonialism and Zionism, an axis that also incorporates political forces from Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Palestine itself. Simplifying the equation to a relationship of “subordination,” however, is still superficial and banal, given the Yemeni people’s own history of struggle.
In Western Asia, Israel’s growing aggressiveness and the interventionist presence of the United States have polarized the political situation. Iran’s recent agreement to settle differences with Saudi Arabia, as well as other agreements have brought Egypt and Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among others, closer — after years of distancing. All this added to the cessation of the war in Yemen and pointed to a weakening of the imperialist-Zionist pole and strengthening of the resistance.
In this context, due to history and geographical location, the role of Yemen and the Houthi movement is decisive. It is worth saying that Ansarallah has never hidden its relationship with Iran. They are united by their common membership in the Shiite branch of Islam.
Both the founder of the Ansarallah movement and his brother, who leads it today, spent part of their lives in Qom (Iran), training politically and ideologically, and at the same time studied the Shiite current.
Shiism is based on the idea that the legitimate succession of Muhammad corresponds to the descendants of his son-in-law Ali. The Sunnis believe that Muhammad’s successors should be the prophet’s companions. Sunni comes from “Ahl al-Sunna,” which translates as “the people of tradition,” and Shia comes from “Shiat Ali,” which means “the party of Ali.”
None of this means that the Yemenis are simple “accessories” to Iran. Beyond the financial, military, communication and political support it has received from Tehran, the Ansarallah movement has demonstrated autonomy. It made its own decisions regarding its strategy and the execution of its actions in the war against Saudi Arabia and its allies since 2015 and now in support of Palestine.
In addition to its aid to Palestine, Yemen has a direct conflict with Israel due to the support that the Zionist entity gave to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the war that began in 2015. This support allowed the UAE to occupy the strategic Socotra archipelago — which are Yemeni islands located in the Arabian Sea about 350 kilometers south of the country’s coast — to establish a series of spy bases there. These bases gather intelligence information throughout the region, particularly the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb [entrance to the Red Sea].
The UAE/Israeli base in Socotra also benefits the United States military, since, through it, the U.S. military could control the port of Gwadar in Pakistan, which is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Beijing developed this port so that goods unloaded there could be shipped overland to China, particularly its western region.
Yemen’s actions support Palestine
However, in relation to current events, it should be known that Yemen’s actions in support of Palestine began almost immediately after October 7. On Oct. 19, a U.S. Navy ship shot down missiles and drones fired by the Houthis against Israel — according to Pentagon information published at the time.
On Oct. 27, six people were injured when two drones fell on Taba, an Egyptian town bordering Israel, after their interception by the Israeli air force. On Oct. 31, the Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone attack against the Zionist entity, whose army reported that it had intercepted a missile launched from the south.
Houthi military spokesman, Gen. Yahya Sari, said in a televised statement that the group had launched a “large number” of ballistic missiles and drones toward Israel and that there would be more attacks in the future “to help the Palestinians achieve victory.” In response, Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said the Houthi attacks were intolerable but declined to elaborate when asked how Israel would respond.
In mid-November, Ansarallah announced that its armed forces would attack all ships sailing under the Israeli flag or owned or operated by Israeli companies. A few days later, General Sari indicated that, “The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent ships of all nationalities heading to Israeli ports from sailing through the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea, until they transport the food and medicine that the Palestinians need” in the Gaza Strip.
Faced with this decision, and after the first attacks on ships heading to Israel, four large shipping companies (the world’s largest container line, Mediterranean Shipping Co. [MSC], based in Switzerland, the Danish Maersk, the French CMA CGM and the German Hapag-Lloyd) suspended the passage of their ships through the Red Sea. These companies transport approximately 53 percent of the world’s maritime containers and around 12 percent of global trade in terms of volume. It must be said that 30 percent of the world’s container traffic passes through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
In response, on Dec. 19, the United States proposed creating a naval alliance to launch an operation they called “Prosperity Guardian,” supposedly dedicated to “ensuring freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.” In reality, this meant declaring war on Yemen and militarizing that sea. But the Arab country has remained loyal to its position. Its armed forces have stated that “any attack against Yemeni assets or against Yemen’s missile launch bases would stain the entire Red Sea with blood” and that they have “weapons to sink your aircraft carriers and destroyers.”
The escalation of actions since then has been evident. In a speech on Dec. 20, the leader of Ansarallah, Sayyed Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, declared that the responsibility of the Islamic world in the conflict in Palestine was great, especially that of the Arab region, as it is “the heart of that world.” In this sense, he deplored the Islamic-Arab position in the summits that were held to debate the issue, especially the one held in Saudi Arabia. He characterized that view as weak.
Al-Houthi noted that there should be a commitment by Arab and Muslim people to support Palestine. He deplored that some countries focused on what he called the “conspiracy against Palestine.” The Yemeni leader said that his nation did not expect a positive position or role from the United States and European countries towards Palestine. For these reasons, he considered that the perspective of the resistance axis should be aimed at raising the level of military support for Palestine.
U.S. ‘seeks to militarize maritime space’
In this context, Al-Houthi warned that Ansarallah was going to “attack American warships if his forces were attacked by Washington after the launch of Operation Guardian of Prosperity.” According to Al-Houthi, the United States is not trying to protect global shipping but rather seeks to militarize maritime space.
However, the United States did not achieve a consensus to carry out the missions of the created naval alliance. Disagreements arose with the Arab countries which were called to form part of the coalition. This failure has made a coherent response to the Houthi attacks against ships transiting the Red Sea difficult.
Two key countries in the region involved in the long war against Yemen — the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — maintain opposing positions towards the Houthis. These differences are a major obstacle to the U.S. plan to end maritime attacks. One possibility considered by Washington is to carry out a military attack on the Houthis, but some Arab allies have refused to do so. These prefer to insist on diplomatic channels and reinforced maritime protection for ships.
Specialized analysts consulted in this regard agree that the objectives of the operation are vague if it is considered that the naval commanders have not been given precise missions. Likewise, coalition ships, although equipped with advanced weapons, can be limited to only repelling missile attacks and escorting merchant ships with warships, which is questionable, since Yemen’s missile arsenal is inexhaustible at any time.
In light of the actions undertaken over the last eight years, in addition, “neither the management of global shipping companies, nor the captains of merchant ships, nor insurance companies will be willing to play this lottery,” according to Ilya Kramnik, a Russian naval forces expert.
Likewise, Michael Horton, co-founder of Red Sea Analytics International, an independent advisory firm dedicated to providing impartial analysis of security dynamics in the Red Sea, noted that the Houthis “have only deployed a portion of their weapons, without using missiles — longer range, more advanced drones and sea mines that are difficult to detect.”
In this situation, U.S. Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan noted that, “The United States has also been accepting as normal the persistent attacks […] by the Houthis.” According to the New York Times, this has led to President Biden being forced to face a difficult choice related to future Houthi deterrence plans. To do this, he must consider that Saudi Arabia is not seeking an escalation of the conflict that could sink a truce with the rebels that was negotiated with great effort. For his part, Tim Lenderking, U.S. special envoy for Yemen, stated in mid-December that, “Everyone is looking for a formula to reduce tensions.”
Possible blockade of Israel
On the other side of the conflict, on Dec. 24, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Major General Hossein Salami, announced that progress could be made towards a total naval blockade of Israel, including the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar and other navigable waterways.
To date [Jan. 10], Yemen has already managed to almost completely block the Israeli port of Eilat, located on the Red Sea, which is operating at only 15 percent of its capacity. It is worth saying that Ansarallah’s military forces managed to hit an Israeli ship deep in the Arabian Sea, near India, a long distance from Yemeni territory. For its part, Iran has drones and long-range hypersonic missiles that, in the event of an all-out war against Zionism, could easily target commercial ships moving through the Mediterranean towards Israeli ports.
Likewise, in preparation for a combat of other dimensions against Israel, the Yemeni army announced that it has 20,000 reservist soldiers trained and willing to fight alongside the country’s armed forces against the Zionist entity and the coalition it leads.
On Dec. 28, Yemen warned the United States and its allies about the militarization of the Red Sea and stated that it will intensify its attacks against enemies if the blockade and bombardment of Gaza continue. In this context, a day earlier, the main commanders of the Yemeni Armed Forces met to discuss the latest regional developments and review the combat readiness of the troops. At the end of the meeting, they stated that they were ready to carry out the orders of the leader of Ansarallah.
On Jan. 4, after a Yemeni naval contingent came face to face with U.S. military forces in the Red Sea, with the Yemenis losing three small boats and 10 fighters, the commander of the Yemeni Coastal Defense Forces, General Muhammad Al-Qadiri, warned that his country would respond by selecting the target in each case on the islands, in the Red Sea and in “the bases where the Zionists and the Americans are stationed.”
If the United States and its alliance ultimately decide to directly challenge the Houthis in the Red Sea, they will face a vast naval war from the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. If that were to happen, an unstoppable spiral of confrontations of incalculable dimensions would be unleashed.
In any case, Yemen has already managed to use its strategic position as a force in global balances and impose itself as an important part in the ongoing confrontation by expressing one of the bravest forms of support for the Palestinian people, who face the Israeli-backed war machine, backed by the United States and Great Britain. The Yemeni position contributes important pressure against Zionism and its North American mentor.
Controlling the Suez Canal means controlling 90 percent of world trade that directly involves Israel and can affect its economy. In this sense, the Houthis have managed to do what Israel and the United States have tried to avoid at all costs until now: “to turn the genocide in Gaza into a global crisis.”
Lebanese journalist Khalil Harb, citing the World Bank in an article in the online magazine The Cradle, stated that the “occupation state imports and exports nearly 99 percent of goods via waterways and shipping” and “more than one-third of its GDP depends on trade in goods.”
For his part Eduardo Vasco, a Brazilian journalist specializing in international politics, pointed out that in addition to the direct impact that the Houthi movement is causing in Western Asia, its actions are “paralyzing the world economy, that is, the very functioning of the capitalist regime, which is at the root of the problem of the war of aggression in the Middle East.”
In this framework, Vasco believes that the United States and Israel are limited in carrying out a direct attack on Yemen, because there could be reprisals against the United States’ allies in the region, “mainly against their oil fields, which would brutally aggravate the economic crisis with one of oil (which has already started). For this reason, while the UAE wants strong action against the Houthis, the Saudis are cautious.”
At the last minute and almost as this article was closing, information arrived that Yemen had attacked a U.S. ship transporting supplies to Israel, thus responding to recent U.S. attacks against Yemeni naval forces. Likewise, responding to the statements of U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the deputy foreign minister of Yemen, Hussein Al-Ezzi, ratified that Yemen would respect, “the security of navigation to all destinations, except the ports of occupied Palestine,” categorically denying the false information disseminated by Washington, London and Berlin regarding the safety of navigation.
The preceding lines show the capacity and decision of the Yemeni people to assume an active role combating Israel’s war against Palestine. By their deeds, they make it clear that, even though Yemen is a relatively small country and marginalized globally and regionally from economic development, it maintains a will to fight that expresses the ancient feeling that it exists as an independent nation. The Yemenis call into question the main world powers by placing obstacles and impediments to the imperial execution of their policy in the region that they express through their full support for Israel.
Read Part 1:
Yemen: An indomitable people! – Part 1, history