Coalition led by the United States issues a caution to the Houthi rebels, pledging repercussions for their attacks in the Red Sea

By Robert Lutz

The United States, along with 12 allied nations, issued a final warning to Houthi rebels on Wednesday, urging them to halt their attacks on Red Sea vessels or face potential military action. The warning comes in response to the 23 attacks by Yemen-based militants since December 19, linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

A senior Biden administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, emphasized that the Iranian-backed Houthis should not expect another warning from the U.S. and its allies. The joint statement condemning the attacks was issued by the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. separately called on the United Nations Security Council to take action against the Houthis and cautioned Iran, their financier, to reconsider providing support to the rebels. The statement stressed the immediate end of illegal attacks and the release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews, with a clear warning that the Houthis would bear responsibility for any consequences.

The Houthi attacks, initially claimed to be in response to the Israel-Hamas war, have targeted commercial shipping vessels in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a critical waterway connecting Asia and Europe. Operation Prosperity Guardian, involving U.S., French, and UK warships, has been formed to protect ship traffic in the region.

In recent incidents, U.S. Navy helicopters engaged Houthi rebels attacking a cargo ship, resulting in casualties among the rebels. The U.S. and its allies have faced Houthi ballistic missile attacks and explosive drone incidents in the past weeks. President Joe Biden aims to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from escalating regionally but emphasizes defending interests and partners if global commerce is impacted.

The U.S. official mentioned that any potential action against the Houthis would be executed in a strategic manner, avoiding deeper involvement with Iran and its proxy groups. At the U.N., U.S. deputy ambassador Christopher Lu highlighted the role of Iranian support in the Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The official reiterated President Biden’s stance on avoiding conflict in the Middle East while affirming the commitment to self-defense and protecting international commerce. Despite this, the U.S. has taken military action against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq in response to attacks on U.S. forces.