The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has strongly condemned the Houthi attack on merchant vessels in the Red Sea, labeling these actions as an ‘unacceptable threat’ to regional stability. This statement follows military strikes by the United States and the United Kingdom on Houthi targets in Yemen.
The UAE’s Foreign Ministry expressed grave concerns about the repercussions of these attacks on marine navigation, particularly in the strategic Bab Al-Mandab strait and the Red Sea. The ministry stressed that such hostile actions endanger international trade, regional security, and global interests. This position was reported by Anadolu Agency, a Turkish news outlet.
Background of Houthi Attacks
The Iran-aligned Houthis escalated their offensive against shipping vessels heading towards Israel after Hamas militants attacked Israel, which led to Israel’s military response in Gaza. The Houthis have stated their intentions to continue these attacks until Israel halts its operations.
In retaliation, the US and UK conducted military strikes on Thursday against Houthi targets in Yemen, aimed at dismantling the group’s capabilities to launch further maritime attacks. The Pentagon confirmed that these strikes have significantly weakened the Houthis’ capacity for new offensives, targeting numerous locations across Yemen.
Despite the loss of five of its leaders in the latest strikes, the Houthi group remains defiant, vowing to persist in their attacks on regional shipping.
US and UK’s Firm Stance
In a statement, White House spokesperson John Kirby emphasized that the strikes were focused on disabling the Houthis’ missile and drone capabilities, which pose significant threats to shipping in the Red Sea. President Joe Biden also warned of additional strikes if the militant group continues its assaults on merchant and military vessels in this vital waterway.
Protests and Vows for Retaliation
Following the actions of the US and UK, large-scale protests erupted in several Yemeni cities. Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, a member of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, accused the United States of terrorism and labeled the country ‘the Devil.’ Despite this rhetoric, Houthi leaders have promised to retaliate against the continued military actions.
Understanding the Houthi Movement
The Houthis, originating in the 1980s as a militia group in Yemen, oppose Saudi Arabia’s religious influence in the country. Named after their founder, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, they align with the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam. The group, officially known as Ansar Allah, controls most of the western region of Yemen and has grown to boast around 20,000 fighters under the leadership of Abdul Malik al-Houthi. Equipped with a significant arsenal of armed drones and ballistic missiles, the Houthis have launched numerous attacks on Saudi infrastructure despite extensive bombings on their territory.
The Houthis’ commitment to continue targeting global shipping until Israel ceases its actions in Gaza poses a significant threat to the world economy. The Red Sea, a crucial route for about 12% of global trade and 10% of the world’s oil, has witnessed over 20 attacks by the Iran-backed rebels on merchant ships recently. This has led to heightened shipping costs and oil prices, with Brent Crude seeing a rise. Major oil firms like British Petroleum (BP) have been forced to reroute their vessels, leading to longer journey times and higher costs for consumers.
Impact on India and Global Trade
While India-flagged merchant vessels have not been targeted, the country’s exports, particularly rice trade, could be adversely affected. India, a leading exporter of basmati rice, might face challenges due to these developments. The global trade route diversion around the Cape of Good Hope adds thousands of kilometers to journeys, significantly delaying shipments and impacting over $200 billion in trade.
The crisis in the Red Sea, fueled by the ongoing conflict and military responses, continues to escalate tensions and disrupt global trade, posing significant challenges to international stability and economic interests.
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