Experts warn that intensified attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels are a coordinated and alarming effort by Iran to “defeat the United States” and “spread Iran’s Islamic revolution.”
“We pretend we are not at war. But the Iranians and the Houthis are at war with us,” Bill Roggio, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the newspaper on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Iranian-backed militants launched a new attack on another ship in the Red Sea – a vital shipping artery – and targeted a container ship en route from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan with naval missiles.
A senior US military official said last week that the group launched at least 100 attacks on 14 different merchant and commercial ships in the Red Sea over the past month. CNN reported.
But sinking ships is not the ultimate goal of attacks, according to Roggio.
The military expert said, “The targeting process in itself is sufficient.”
He added: “The Houthis and Iranians are the ones who determine the crossing of naval ships on the high seas. “This is unbelievable and the world seems powerless to stop it.”
Houthi forces intensified their attacks on ships passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait – the southern entrance to the Red Sea and a vital corridor for trade in the Mediterranean – after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza, claiming that they were targeting Only ships destined for the Jewish nation.
But the group has repeatedly fired on ships, and even boarded them, without any clear connection to Israel.
The attacks have become such a problem that five of the world's largest shipping companies, including Maersk, BP and MSC Mediterranean, have suspended operations in the Red Sea.
Roggio said dictating terms for passage through one of the world's most important sea shipping lanes and disrupting trade around the world is the Houthis' real goal — and part of an Iranian plot to expel the United States from the Middle East.
“This is all part of a larger Iranian plan to defeat the United States, to get the United States to abandon the Middle East, so that it can spread the Iranian Islamic revolution in Iraq and Syria, and in Lebanon. He explained that defeating Israel means defeating the Saudis.
“The Houthis are playing their role.”
The Houthis have controlled the Yemeni capital since 2015 and are waging a civil war against Saudi-backed forces for full control of the country.
They are just one of many extremist groups in the region – including Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah – that receive their support and orders from Iran and call themselves the “Axis of Resistance.”
“These are militias, primarily Shiite militias, that are supported, funded and trained by the Iranians. Roggio said: Iraqi militias and Syrian militias attacking American bases in Iraq and Syria.
If the Houthis can disrupt trade in the region significantly enough to force the United States to convince Israel to abandon its campaign to completely eliminate Hamas in Gaza, it would be a major victory for Iranian influence in the world.
Roggio explained: “If Hamas survives this war, it will be a defeat for Israel, a victory for the axis of resistance, and a victory for Iran.”
He added: “They will prove that Iran and its allies are capable of directing the political outcomes of wars in the Middle East.”
The United States responded to escalating attacks in the Red Sea by sending the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group to the region as part of Operation Prosperity Sentinel, which was launched on December 18.
On Tuesday, US forces shot down a barrage of Houthi missiles and attack drones during a 10-hour attack in the Red Sea.
But Roggio warns that this defense strategy, without aggression, is useless.
He said that the Biden administration's unwillingness to respond with force is a victory for Iran.
“We teach our enemies and opponents that we are not serious, and that we should not be taken seriously,” he said.
Roggio added that instead of the United States fearing escalation, Biden needs to make the Iranians fear the United States.
“We don’t have to go to an all-out war with Iran. But we certainly have the ability to make the Iranians pay the price.”
If the Iranians want to play that game, you have to call their bluff. Otherwise they will continue. What they are doing now is working, it is stopping international shipping. How long are we going to deal with this?”
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