Yemeni: An indomitable people (II)

Yemeni: An indomitable people (II)

Correction: In the first part of this article published it was stated: “However, Great Britain, after recognizing the independence of Yemen, in 1920s, converted Aden into a protectorate and in 1937, into a colony.” It should say: “However, Great Britain, after recognizing the independence of Yemen, in 1928, converted Aden into a protectorate and in 1937, into a colony”. Many readers let me know about that mistake. I take responsibility and I also thank the media that published the articles and that edited it to make it readable. I thank you all and apologize.

The transnational media has spread the idea that the Houthis act under the influence of the Government of Iran. Although neither Iran nor the Houthis have denied belonging to an axis of resistance to imperialism, colonialism and Zionism that also incorporates political forces from Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Palestine itself, simplifying the equation to a relationship of “subordination” 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 that have brought Egypt and Türkiye, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among others, closer – after years of distancing – added to the cessation of the war in Yemen, to the point of weakening the imperialist-Zionist pole and strengthening 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 Ansarullah 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 Ansarullah movement and his brother, who leads it today, spent part of their lives in Qom (Iran), training politically and ideologically, at the same time they studied the Shiite current, based on the idea that the legitimate succession of Muhammad corresponds to the descendants of his son-in-law Ali as opposed to the Sunnis who think 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 “Chiat Ali”, which means “the party of Ali”.

But this does not mean that Yemenis are simple “accessories” to Iran. Beyond the financial, military, communication and political support it has received from Tehran, the Ansarullah movement has demonstrated autonomy and its own decision in the design and execution of its actions both in the war against Saudi Arabia and its allies since 2015 and now, in support for the cause of Palestine.

It should be known that 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 that allowed it to occupy the strategic islands. Yemenis from Socotra, which are located in the Arabian Sea about 350 kilometers south of the country’s coasts, in order to establish a series of spy bases for the purpose of gathering intelligence information throughout the region, particularly the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb.

Something important to note regarding the UAE and Israel base in Socotra is that it also benefits the United States since through it, Washington can control the port of Gwadar in Pakistan, which is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in which Beijing developed a port so that goods unloaded there could be shipped overland to China, particularly its western region.

But, in relation to current events, it should be known that Yemen’s actions in support of Palestine began almost immediately after October 7. On the 19th of that month, a US navy ship shot down missiles and drones fired by the Houthis against Israel, according to Pentagon information published at the time.

A few days later, on October 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 October 31, the Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone attack against the Zionist entity. His 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, Ansarullah 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% of the world’s maritime containers, and around 12% of global trade in terms of volume. It must be said that 30% of the world’s container traffic passes through Bab al-Mandeb.

In response, on December 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 unchanged in 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,” ensuring that they have “weapons to sink your aircraft carriers and destroyers.”

The escalation of actions since then has been evident. On December 20, in a speech, the leader of Ansarullah, Sayyed Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, stated 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. Al Houthi characterized that view as weak. He noted that there should be a commitment by Arab and Muslim people to support Palestine, while deploring the focus of some countries on what he called the “conspiracy against Palestine.” The Yemeni leader said his nation did not expect a positive position or role from the United States and European countries toward 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.

In this context, Al Houthi warned that Ansarullah 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 that were called to form part of the coalition, which 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, which has been a major obstacle to the US plan to end maritime attacks. One possibility considered by Washington is to give a military response to the Houthis, but some Arab allies have refused to do so. These prefer to insist on diplomatic channels and reinforce 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 only be limited to repelling missile attacks, escorting merchant ships with warships, which is questionable since Yemen’s missile arsenal is inexhaustible at any time in the light of the actions undertaken in the last 8 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, 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 of longer range, more advanced drones and sea mines that are difficult to detect.”

In this situation, US 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, it must consider that Saudi Arabia is not seeking an escalation of the conflict that could sink a truce with the rebels negotiated with great effort. For his part, Tim Lenderking, US special envoy for Yemen, stated in mid-December that “Everyone is looking for a formula to reduce tensions.”

On the other side of the conflict, on December 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 if the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar and other navigable waterways were closed. To date, Yemen has already managed to almost completely block the Israeli port of Eilat, located on the Red Sea, which is operating at only 15% of its capacity. It is worth saying that Ansarullah’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. USA.

On December 28, Yemen warned the United States and its partners about the militarization of the Red Sea and stated that it will intensify its attacks against enemies if the blockade of Gaza continues. 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 Ansarullah.

On January 4, after a Yemeni naval contingent came face to face with US military forces in the Red Sea, with the loss of three small boats and 10 fighters, the commander of the Yemeni Coastal Defense Forces, General division Muhammad Al-Qadiri warned that his country did not reserve the right to respond, but would respond by determining the objective 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 equation and express one of the bravest forms of support for the Palestinian people who face the Israeli-backed war machine. by the United States and Great Britain, constituting an important letter of pressure against Zionism and its North American mentor.

Controlling the Suez Canal means controlling 90% of world trade, directly affecting Israel by hitting its economy. In this sense, the Houthis managed to do what Israel and the United States have tried to avoid at all costs until now: “Turn the genocide in Gaza into a global crisis.”

The journalist Khalil Harb, citing the World Bank, in an article in the online magazine The Cradle, stated that Israel imports and exports “almost 99% of goods by river and sea” and more than ⅓ of its GDP depends on goods trade”.

For his part, the Brazilian journalist specialized in international politics, Eduardo Vasco 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 US ship transporting supplies to Israel, thus responding to recent US attacks against Yemeni naval forces.

Likewise, responding to the statements of the United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the deputy foreign minister of Yemen, Hussein Al-Ezzi ratified “the safety 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 a certain role in Israel’s war against Palestine. In the facts, they make it clear that, even though it is a small country and marginalized globally and regionally from economic development, it maintains a will to fight that expresses the ancient feeling of existing as an independent nation, calling into question the main world powers by placing obstacles and impediments to the imperial execution of its policy in the region through full support for Israel.

Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
A Venezuelan international relations expert, Gelfenstein was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TELESUR. He has written numerous books, among them “China in the XXI Century – the awakening of a giant”, published in several Latin American countries. You can follow him on Twitter: @sergioro0701

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March 2024