US-UK Strike Houthi Targets

The inevitable response to attacks on international shipping.

President Joe Biden participates in a joint press conference with United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Thursday, June 8, 2023, in the East Room of the White House.
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

AP (“US, British militaries launch massive retaliatory strike against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen“):

The U.S. and British militaries bombed more than a dozen sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen on Thursday, in a massive retaliatory strike using warship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. Air Force’s Mideast command said it struck over 60 targets at 16 sites in Yemen, including “command-and-control nodes, munitions depots, launching systems, production facilities and air defense radar systems.”

President Joe Biden said the strikes were meant to demonstrate that the U.S. and its allies “will not tolerate” the militant group’s ceaseless attacks on the Red Sea. And he said they only made the move after attempts at diplomatic negotiations and careful deliberation.

“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,” Biden said in a statement. He noted the attacks endangered U.S. personnel and civilian mariners and jeopardized trade, and he added, “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”


The strikes marked the first U.S. military response to what has been a persistent campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. And the coordinated military assault comes just a week after the White House and a host of partner nations issued a final warning to the Houthis to cease the attacks or face potential military action. The officials described the strikes on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations. Members of Congress were briefed earlier Thursday on the strike plans.

The warning appeared to have had at least some short-lived impact, as attacks stopped for several days. On Tuesday, however, the Houthi rebels fired their largest-ever barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea, with U.S. and British ships and American fighter jets responding by shooting down 18 drones, two cruise missiles and an anti-ship missile. And on Thursday, the Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile into the Gulf of Aden, which was seen by a commercial ship but did not hit the ship.

In a call with reporters, senior administration and military officials said that after the Tuesday attacks, Biden convened his national security team and was presented with military options for a response. He then directed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who remains hospitalized with complications from prostate cancer surgery, to carry out the retaliatory strikes.

In a separate statement, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Royal Air Force carried out targeted strikes against military facilities used by the Houthis. The Defense Ministry said four fighter jets based in Cyprus took part in the strikes.

Noting the militants have carried out a series of dangerous attacks on shipping, he added, “This cannot stand.” He said the U.K. took “limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defense, alongside the United States with non-operational support from the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain against targets tied to these attacks, to degrade Houthi military capabilities and protect global shipping.”

The governments of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and South Korea joined the U.S. and U.K. in issuing a statement saying that while the aim is to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, the allies won’t hesitate to defend lives and protect commerce in the critical waterway.

Reuters (“US and Britain strike Yemen in retaliation for Houthi attacks on shipping“) adds:

A U.S. official said the targets were not just symbolic but intended to weaken the Houthis’ ability to attack: “We were going after very specific capability in very specific locations with precision munitions.”

In a country only just emerging from nearly a decade of war that brought millions of people to the brink of famine, morning brought long queues at petrol stations from people fearing an extended new conflict with the West.


U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is in hospital due to complications from surgery, said in a statement that the strikes had targeted Houthi drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, coastal radar and air surveillance.

Houthi attacks on commercial ships have forced shipping lines to send vessels on a longer, costlier route around Africa, creating fears that a new bout of inflation and supply chain disruption could derail the global economic recovery.

Carmaker Tesla said delays to parts supplies from Asia due to Red Sea unrest had forced it to shut its factory in Germany for two weeks, the first big manufacturer to make such an announcement.

But Washington has had to weigh its determination to keep the shipping lane open against the risk of spreading war in the region. The strikes were the first by the United States on Yemeni territory since 2016, and the first time it has attacked the Iran-backed Houthis at such scale.

“The concern is that this could escalate,” said Andreas Krieg at King’s College in London.

Saudi Arabia called for restraint and “avoiding escalation”. The Saudis have for nearly a decade backed the opposing side in a war against the Houthis, which has lately been in a delicate state of U.N.-backed peace negotiations.

The United States also accused Iran of being involved operationally in the Houthi attacks, providing the military capabilities and intelligence to carry them out.

“We believe that they have been certainly involved in every phase of this,” a senior U.S. official told reporters.

Violence has also escalated in Lebanon, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Syria and Iraq in the three months since Israel mounted a military assault on Gaza.

NYT (“U.S.-Led Strikes Spark Outrage in Middle East“):

Many in the Middle East, including some U.S. allies, condemned the American-led airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Friday and warned that they risked causing a broader conflict in the region.

The strikes came after a series of Houthi attacks against ships in the Red Sea. The Houthis have said they are targeting Israeli ships and vessels headed to Israel in an effort to support Palestinians in Gaza, who have been under relentless Israeli bombardment for nearly 100 days, although some Houthi targets have had no clear connection to Israel.


Even close U.S. ally Oman, which often mediates between the Houthis and international parties, expressed concern, a reflection of the fear that the American-led action would not deter the Houthis but would only inflame regional conflict.

“It is impossible not to denounce that an allied country resorted to this military action, while meanwhile, Israel is continuing to exceed all bounds in its bombardment, brutal war and siege on Gaza without any consequence,” Oman’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In Bahrain, another U.S. ally, people took to the streets on Friday to protest their country’s involvement in the military coalition, according to Bahraini activists who shared pictures of the demonstrations. Amid popular anger over its participation in the coalition, the Bahraini government has not independently acknowledged its role, but was named in the joint statement announcing the strikes.

The Biden administration has signaled that these strikes would be forthcoming absent change in Houthi behavior for days now, so they’re hardly a shock. The United States has been the primary enforcer of the law of the sea, including freedom of navigation, for generations now and, certainly, wasn’t going to allow a nonstate actor to get away with attacking commercial shipping.

Whether this leads to wider escalation remains to be seen. Iran has certainly enabled the Houthi attacks, as well as Hezbollah attacks into Israel. While destabilization hardly seems in their interest, adding to Israel’s challenges is.

The oil markets went up 4% overnight, the NYT reports:

Oil prices rose sharply on Friday as the Middle East conflict looks to be spreading. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose by about 4 percent to just over $80 a barrel.

“It’s obviously an escalation,” said Richard Bronze, head of geopolitics at Energy Aspects, a London-based research firm. Brent crude last breached $80 a barrel briefly in late December.

Mr. Bronze said that it was unlikely that the United States-led airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen would stop attacks on shipping by the Iran-backed force.

“In many ways the group has been trying to provoke exactly this kind of response,” he said.

So far, though, the impact on energy prices from the attacks on ships in the Red Sea has been limited because oil and natural gas tankers have not been impeded as much container vessels.

In addition, traders view the market as having plenty of oil. In an indication of this situation, Saudi Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, recently cut its prices for crude oil to Asian refiners for February by $2 a barrel.

That sounds alarming until one looks at the accompanying graph:

Unless I’m missing something, this is hardly an unusual fluctuation and, indeed, prices are way down since the war in Gaza started.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Military Affairs, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott says:

    The governments of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and South Korea joined the U.S. and U.K. in issuing a statement saying that while the aim is to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, the allies won’t hesitate to defend lives and protect commerce in the critical waterway.

    As a matter of international politics and since shipping is a key to China’s wealth. I would publicly invite China to send a ship to the Red Sea for joint operations. It would be interesting to put that wedge between China and Iran.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    In Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen, religious fanatics who have seized effective control of foreign policy are dragging entire populations into an unwinnable war. Maybe I should reconsider my dismissal of the “religion causes nothing but trouble” crowd here.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott: Has any branch of the Chinese military actually engaged in armed conflict in the past generation? Sending a navy vessel to harrass rusty Philippine freighters hardly counts.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: So far as I know, since the conflict with Vietnam in 1979, it’s mostly been relegated to what DOD calls “gray zone” activities involving the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia.

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    Maybe I should reconsider my dismissal of the “religion causes nothing but trouble” crowd here.

    Jesus is reported to have said “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
    Where are the peacemakers?
    Where is Jesus?
    Maybe the “God believer“ crowd here can help us out on this matter.

  6. Scott says:

    @MarkedMan: It’s telling that the far right Republicans are all gung-ho on supporting Israel but not Ukraine. Despite the fact that Iran is fully behind both the religious extremists in the Middle East and also supplying Russia with drones and weapons. Granted that the Russia deal is more a business deal but the American Christian nationalists refuse to see the connection between Israel and Ukraine.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott: I hear you, but bemoaning Christianist hypocrisy is a waste of time. 95-99% of Christianity (or any other religion) is performative and about being in a member in good standing of the Jesus Saves! Social Club. If I recall correctly, there was a guy about 2000 years ago that pointed out that the people who were most publicly religious were phonies and not really religious at all. He was right.

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan: @James Joyner:

    The Chinese navy isn’t all that. I pointed out the other day that we are now protecting Chinese shipping, while the #1 Chinese People’s Navy is busy trying to intimidate the Philippines. And failing.

  9. JohnMc says:

    Two small additions to the conversation:

    The Houthis had at least several hours warning it seems. At least British news sources seemed ahead of the news. And there was a retalitory bomb of the US embassy in Baghdad (neither the 1st nor last of course).

    Thought was worth sharing.

  10. JKB says:

    The prosperity that Operation Prosperity Guardian is guarding is China’s. And to some extent the EU. Diverting around the Horn (summer right now) only adds 2 days to a trip to the US East/Gulf coast. It adds about 10 days to Europe. But the cargo is almost all coming out of China.

    But no action against the Iranian “merchant” ship holding station right where the Houthi were targeting the shipping giving every impression providing targeting to the Houthi. The Iranian ship has been there since 2022.

    As for China, no action by their “task force” in the area, but oddly, if the ship has close Chinese affiliation, it isn’t targeted. As for the Chinese navy, they have few ships that can operate more than 1000 miles from home (in a straight line). Their UNREP is really no existent.

    But Joe is providing the service that the Chinese bought via Hunter. In the 1980s when ships were being targeted in the Persian Gulf those that wanted US protection had to reflag to the US and… taxes and follow US maritime standards.

    In this current “crisis”, the big European shipping lines have even refused to let their US flagged vessels, under DoD contract transit the Red Sea even though they would have the full force of US naval protection. It’s all about the money as the troubles are absorbing the overbuilding of cargo capacity that was starting to hurt the bottom line of the EU shipping conglomerates. Buying the Bidens is turning out to be a good investment as long as aren’t an American taxpayer.

  11. inhumans99 says:


    You said: But Joe is providing the service that the Chinese bought via Hunter. (end copy/paste), to that I have to say, lol!!!!!

    No, serously, lol!!! I am laughing so hard it hurts. So you think that Biden only took these actions because Hunter came up to his Dad and said, Dad…you gotta do this for the Chinese or else I am in trouble, is just…wow, you need to step away from some of the regular sites you like to haunt and I will not even recommend other sites that are not right leaning, but to just step away from reading any news site in general if they are causing you to believe that Hunter is the tail that is wagging the dog in the White House.

    Again, Wow (this time with a capital W)…I want to avoid direct insults at you so I will say no more other than this; if Hunter Biden did not exist (he was snapped out of existence by Thanos and any memory of Hunter also disappeared from those who knew him) Biden and our Allies would have still been placed in a situation where this was most likely the best option without directly asking Americans to accept that we need to place U.S. Military boots on the ground in the Middle-East.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:From Bloomberg:

    US intelligence indicates that President Xi Jinping’s sweeping military purge came after it emerged that widespread corruption undermined his efforts to modernize the armed forces and raised questions about China’s ability to fight a war, according to people familiar with the assessments.

    The corruption inside China’s Rocket Force and throughout the nation’s defense industrial base is so extensive that US officials now believe Xi is less likely to contemplate major military action in the coming years than would otherwise have been the case, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing intelligence.

    It goes on to describe missiles filled with water rather than fuel

  13. Jay L Gischer says:

    @JKB: Have you forgotten your Adam Smith? Fundamental to his writing is the idea that a trade enriches both parties to the trade.

    So if Europeans buy stuff from China, both those Europeans and Chinese are enriched. That is why we protect trade.

    This is so fundamental to why people (traditionally conservatives more than liberals) support free trade and globalization – it enhances prosperity for everyone, and it makes ties that are hard to break.

  14. Michael J Reynolds says:

    Even for you this is stupid. I’m curious. Are MAGAts really so clueless they believe this? Or are they aware that it’s bullshit, but the cult demands the endless repetition of imbecilities? Do you get a gold star for revealing your ignorance? Do you realize people laugh at you?

  15. ptfe says:

    @Michael J Reynolds: Do you realize people laugh at you?

    I literally guffawed at the Hunter comment. The credulity of the Brains In The Anal Region crowd for anything published by X-posters with names like “88 Shades of White” is simply astonishing.

  16. DK says:

    @MarkedMan: Strange and predictable that dictators like Xi and Putin, supposedly experts at 3D chess, can never admit the “corruption” is result of their authoritarian culture of lies, whereby underlings are obligated to fake readiness rather than tell the emperor his miltary has no clothes.

    Unless he purges himself, Xi can’t purge the corruption. Xi is the corruption.

    Missles filled with water lol

  17. Andy says:

    The United States has been the primary enforcer of the law of the sea, including freedom of navigation, for generations now and, certainly, wasn’t going to allow a nonstate actor to get away with attacking commercial shipping.

    As with Hamas, the Houthis are a nonstate actor only in a legal sense. In most of the ways that matter, they are very much a state or quasi-state actor and ought to be treated as such.

    It seems to me this set of strikes and targets was both entirely expected and appropriate – going primarily after the capabilities used to attack international shipping and US and allied naval forces. Whether or not this will deter the Houthis and how effective these strikes were at attriting capabilities remains to be seen.

  18. DK says:


    But Joe is providing the service that the Chinese bought via Hunter.

    But it’s Traitor Trump that paid the China Communist Party goverment while evading US taxes, who took millions in explained and unconstitutional Chinese income while president, and whose daughter received Chinese trademarks just before Trump moved to reduce sanctions on Chinese corporations.

    So the Trump crime family needs help hiding its shady China dealings — and its $2 billion Saudi blood money bribe — not Hunter.

  19. gVOR10 says:

    The inevitable response to attacks on international shipping.

    Indeed. So inevitable, and so forewarned the Houthis or their Iranian paymasters must have wanted such a U. S. and allies response. Why? I have no idea. I expect the Iranians are indifferent to a few dead Houthis. But what’s the goal here? What do they really want for halting the attacks?

    I wonder if things might be different had we tried some years ago to somehow partially normalize relations with Iran and bring them into the wider world. Perhaps in exchange for halting their nuclear weapons development.

  20. Mikey says:


    the service that the Chinese bought

    Interesting you put it this way considering how Trump stated during his Iowa town hall that it was fine he got $8 million from foreign governments (including the Chinese) because he was “doing services for them.”

    This is, of course a flagrant violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, but since when has the Constitution mattered to Trump?

  21. Kathy says:

    Like there’s no precedent for this.

    Remember when hunter Biden acting under direct orders from Xi, got the US to re-flag Kuwaiti oil tankers in 1987?

    See, it goes way, way back.

  22. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: Do brain worms feel good as they burrow through your skull?

    There are reasonable arguments to be made as to whether the US should be taking the lead in keeping international shipping lanes open, especially ones that don’t lead directly to us, but those questions become gibberish when marinated in a frothy brine of Hunter Biden conspiracy theories.

    Hunter is a fuckup failson who has traded on the family name, and who Joe hasn’t cut out of his life because he loves his failson. That’s all. There’s never been any evidence that Ol’ Joe has done anything to advance his failson’s “business.”

    For your claim to have any weight you would been to show a recent payment by the Chinese to Hunter Biden (since the Houthi attacks on shipping), and a change in US policy. You have neither the quid nor the quo.

    Defending international shipping lanes has been US policy for decades. I cannot imagine any President in the last 25 years or so ignoring attacks on shipping. I’m not sure about Carter, because I was 6 at the time.

    So I ask again, do the brain worms feel good? Do they provide a certainty in life that offsets the decline of cognitive thinking processes?

  23. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Kathy: If the full truth be known, back in the days of the Iran-Iraq War, the Reagan Administration was trying to play a game of double treachery: sending Don Rumsfeld to assure Saddam Hussein we were privately on his side, while making arms-for-hostages deals with Iran. But we were amateurs at official treachery, at least back then.

  24. JohnSF says:

    The prosperity is everyone’s. The Red Sea is a primary import/export route between Europe and India, SE Asia, S Korea, Japan, Australia etc. as well as China.
    And for some of the LNG (most comes from the US across the Atlantic) that’s needed to replace Russian gas in Europe.
    This may seem marginal to you.
    However, a European economic crash would not do the US any favours.
    The European and American economies are deeply interlinked.

    As for China, there are indications that they are rather pissed off about the Houthi malarkey, and letting the Iranians know it. The Chinese shipping line COSCO has stopped sailing via the Red Sea; and European container ships also carry goods out of China, either direct or via Singapore.
    Again, you may say: “so what?”.
    But as of now, a lot of EU/UK supply chains remain dependent on China for inputs, and will for some years, despite “re-shoring” strategies.
    Again: a European economic crunch will also harm the US.

    And it’s not just the USN that is engaged here: RAF Typhoons have been staging out of Cyprus: long flights over not particularly nice places. HMS Diamond and HMS Lancaster are sailing in harms way, and HMS Richmond is en route from Suez.
    Also is shooting gallery of late: FNS Languedoc, ITS Federico Martinengo, ITS Virginio Fasan.

    And, trust me, the Royal Navy and RAF are not executing war missions for any reason relating to Hunter Biden.
    Or Donald Trump, for that matter.

    The reasons European shipping lines are chary about the Red Sea are that insurance has become prohibitive, and there are legal and commercial reasons for not operating without insurance.
    And also they have a legal duty of care regarding their crews.

  25. Gustopher says:

    On the one hand, the NYT is the only paper to really bother reporting this:

    The Houthis have said they are targeting Israeli ships and vessels headed to Israel in an effort to support Palestinians in Gaza, who have been under relentless Israeli bombardment for nearly 100 days, although some Houthi targets have had no clear connection to Israel.

    On the other hand, they haven’t done anything to meaningfully confirm or refute the Houthis’ claim.

    How many is “some” in “some Houthi targets have had no clear connection to Israel” — 5%? 95%?

    Without basic information like that, it’s impossible to tell if we are breaking a targeted blockade of Israel, or keeping shipping lanes clear for everyone. The former begins to drag us directly into Israel’s war, while the latter is just longstanding US policy.

  26. dazedandconfused says:


    I recommend Saleh’s “Dancing On The Heads Of Snakes” for background on the Houthis. They are very much the personification of how TE Lawrence depicted Auda Abu Tai, truly wild, but in their own way also truly honorable men and men who can not be intimidated.

    Speculation: Everybody turned their backs on their plight when the Saudis tried to wipe them out except Iran. They may be fulfilling a debt of honor with these antics at Iran’s request, but asking these guys to make “a little trouble” is a bit like asking killer bees to cause a little trouble. What happens next is quite unpredictable.

  27. JohnSF says:

    Complete information is hard to come by.
    Lloyds will have the data; but they are known for being tight-lipped.
    The indications I’ve seen are that only two of the ships targeted have any links to Israel at all.
    Only one appears to have been en route to Eilat; the other had an Israeli shipping firm as part-owner.
    The basic thing is, Eilat only handles about 5% at most of Israeli trade. 95% is via the Med ports (Ashdod and Haifa, primarily) and transits the Med to Europe, or out into the Atlantic.
    The UK may be sympathetic to Israel; but we wouldn’t be mounting serious operations to protect the shipping route to Eilat.
    The Red Sea shipping route is way, way more important to Europe than it is to Israel.

    Though as of now, the countries most harmed are Egypt, which has seen Suez transits drop by c. 75% IIRC. And that is important to Egypt: it’s desperately short of hard currency revenues.

    The other country? Yemen.
    Specifically, northern Yemen, the part under Houthi rule. Which has a food shortage due to drought, and to Houthi incompetence. And so needs food imports, primarily via Hodeida on the red Sea. And where imported food prices have doubled, as, for some peculiar reason, ships are rather reluctant to sail to Hodeida.

    Yes: the Houthi blockheads are blockading themselves.

  28. JohnSF says:

    They are also utter arseholes.
    Who have regard slavery as legal under Islamic law.
    And make extensive use of child soldiers.
    And regard their leaders as the infallible agents of the “hidden Imam”.
    There are good reasons why a lot of Yemenis, especially those from Aden and the southern coast, are inclined to fight to the death rather than accept Houthi rule in Yemen.

  29. dazedandconfused says:


    Some of their ancient tribal enemies are every bit as bad as they are, but perhaps will rally around them with the attack of an outside force and a worthy cause. They are quite wily, and all this might be a play for better control in Yemen. Have to wait and see.

  30. JohnSF says:

    The southern Yemen Sunni loathe the Zayidi.
    And it’s not just a matter of tribal rivalry.
    It’s a basic cleavage in Islamic thought: the Sunni are legalistic, emphasize the equality of all Believers, and regard themselves as, within the context of the Quran, religous/legal authorities, and tradition, as rationalistic.
    The Shia vary, a lot, but the Zayidi in particular are proponents of hereditary authority on behalf of the Imamate, and the legal/political supremacy of such authority in a way that the Sunni find utterly abhorrent.
    The chances of the Sunni southern Yemenis “rallying around” the highlander Zayidis is rather low, IMHO.

  31. Andy says:


    On the other hand, they haven’t done anything to meaningfully confirm or refute the Houthis’ claim.

    There isn’t much evidence for the Houthi’s claim.

    Without basic information like that, it’s impossible to tell if we are breaking a targeted blockade of Israel, or keeping shipping lanes clear for everyone. The former begins to drag us directly into Israel’s war, while the latter is just longstanding US policy.

    Actually, it is very easy to tell because it is very clear there is no “targeted blockade” or a blockade of any kind. And where did you get that term? Blockades are definitionally targeted.

    Furthermore, the Houthis have not formally declared a blockade, much less followed any of the normal rules or procedures one would expect (much less those required by international law) to implement one.

    Initially they said they would attack any ship in the Red Sea bound for Israel, but they quickly started attacking ships that might have had owners that were Israeli or were tangentially related to Israel. But they haven’t exactly been clear regarding their criteria for which ships are subject to attack and which are not and have attacked ships seeming at random.

    On December 31st, for instance, they attacked the Maersk Hangzhou with armed fighters in small boats which were repelled by the ship’s armed security force and US Navy helicopters. The ship was going from Singapore to Port Suez, Egypt.

    The day before, the same ship was attacked with two missiles, one of which was shot down, the other hit the ship but didn’t do significant damage. The ship is Singapore-flagged, and Maersk is a Dutch-owned company.

    The Houthi’s said in a statement they attacked the ship because the ship’s crew “refused to heed warning calls.”

    There isn’t even a claimed nexus to Israel anymore, nor is there one is reality. And then there are, in the last couple of weeks, the increasing number of attacks on US, UK, and French warships, which are not Israeli, Israeli-owned, or sailing to Israeli ports.

    So I think the reason that hardly anyone gives this “blockade” theory any merit is because it clearly doesn’t have any merit based on the facts of what the Houthis are actually doing.

  32. dazedandconfused says:


    People who piss us off do not have to become untermensch.

  33. dazedandconfused says:


    That’s why I wonder if it might be, at least partially, for internal reasons. Like Maduro claiming half of Guyana last month. He has no capability nor apparently any real intention of making that happen.

  34. JohnSF says:

    Indeed not.
    I do not regard the Shia in general as untermensch.
    Sunni opinions tend to vary; most regard them as just misguided.
    But it’s a little like old Catholic/Protestant divisions: you may not regard the person as inherently inferior, but may consider their doctrine to be pernicious.
    Though the comparison is inexact: many Sunni consider Shia “legal” judgement (though that term is rather misleading in the context) to be worthy of consideration.
    What they tend to object to is the (more extreme) Shia doctrines of authority,
    In this regard, the Zayidi are more outside the Sunni bounds than are the Iranian mullahs, as they incline to an almost Mahdiist view on the authority of the hereditary Imam.

    This is not much liked by the Sunni of southern Yemen.
    Add to this mix the influence of Wahhabi Sunni “puritanism” mediated via Saudi Arabia, the long-standing highlander/lowlander tribal cleavages, the Adeni socialist/nationalist remnants, etc
    All in all, there is little that binds “Yemen” as a “nation”.

  35. JohnSF says:

    But, while not regarding the Houthi as inherently inferior, they do, for a variety of reasons, have an inclination to both atavistic and rather extreme doctrines.
    If you can make a Wahhabi consider you a bit far out, it’s a bit of an an indicator to just how far out you may be.
    See slavery.
    The Emiratis etc may tolerate “in-effect” slavery in practice.
    But the Houthi are rather unusual in asserting that it’s acceptable as a law of Islam.
    In this regard, they recall the Mahdiists of the Sudan in the late 19thC.
    Who came to a sticky end, courtesy of the British Empire; and were not generally much lamented by others.

  36. JohnSF says:


    People who piss us off do not have to become untermensch.

    Again, I say true.
    But also, I have a sorry habit of regarding the Nazis as untermensch.
    Mea culpa.

  37. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: They’re invested in getting better and have done so in terms of ship acquisition. But they’re a long way away from being a well-trained force.

  38. kingdaddy says:

    Sorry to be pedantic, but isn’t Untermenschen the plural form of Untermensch?

  39. JohnSF says:


    …isn’t Untermenschen the plural form of Untermensch?

    You are correct, of course.
    But lets not menschen it again.

  40. dazedandconfused says:


    These guys are not the Nazis, their pathology is vastly different. What I am referring to is the judgement intended to place the black hats and white hats which is a poor path to understanding.

    Don’t be shocked if the press starts mentioning individuals in the movement who are Sunni, btw. It’s a conglomeration of tribes vying for power over all of Yemen in truth, using religion in the way all such have done in the Islamic world. For what they are trying to accomplish they have to recruit Sunnis, and the old tactic of an “outside enemy” is the tried and true way to accomplish internal consolidation across sect and tribal lines, so this may be the reason they are acting like they are.

  41. JohnSF says:

    I have always attempted to understand my enemies.
    Understanding gives an advantage.
    Of course a Zayidi Shi’a movement is not very much like the Nazis.
    For that matter, both the Italian fascists & Spanish Franco/Falange types were quite distinct in some ways from the NSDP.
    Still more different were the Bolsheviks.
    Or more relevant to this topic, the various flavours of Sunni extremism.
    As Tolstoy didn’t say “…every unhappy bunch of fanatics is unhappily fanatical in its own way.”

    The Houthi may make alliances with Sunni, now and then. But the core of the movement is Zayidi millenarianism.
    The chances of an anti-Western Yemeni “national unity” alliance under Houthi leadership are really rather low.

  42. dazedandconfused says:


    It’s pretty low indeed. Might be why the could be casting around for a uniting issue, such as the plight of the Palestinians.

    I suggested the example of Auda (as Lawrence depicted him) for a couple of reasons. One, he embodies the spirit of tribal warriors perfectly, the other is his tribe was an example of the dozens which had to be carefully cajoled to participate in the Arab Revolt. Most of his book is about that struggle, actually, but was glossed over in the movie for the most part. Such is the nature of the mountain tribes which form the core of the Houthi movement. Religious doctrines get the headlines but they tend to actually be about as important as the differences between the doctrines of the Catholic an Protestant faiths in the Irish Troubles. That is to say not at all, not really.

    The Saudis gave up, so now they may think they need an enemy.

  43. JohnSF says:

    “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” is a fascinating read.
    But the Houthi are not really comparable to the Sunni bedouin.
    Zayidi doctrine is very alien to the outlook of most Sunni.
    And most Houthi support comes from settled highland farming tribes, who have a rather different outlook to the semi-nomadic Bedouin exemplified by Auda and the Huwaytat.
    And if you think doctrinal differences have no relevance to the history of Ireland in general, and northern Ireland in particular, I’d have to disagree.

    Side note: IMHO Lawrence and the Arab revolt have been rather over-estimated in their role in the defeat of the Ottomans.
    The real war was the British advance into Palestine, and breaking the Turkish army at Megiddo.

    Where my grandfather had a minor part: “Armageddon. Been there. Done that.”
    Another amusing irony of history: the Turkish saying : “When the Nile flows into Palestine and the prophet of God comes from the west, then will we leave Jerusalem”
    Allenby, in a rough mistranslation: “Allah en nebi”: “prophet of the Lord”
    Who constructed a pipeline from the Nile to Gaza.
    Prophecy is a funny game.


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