Intensifying attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels constitute a worrying concerted effort by Iran to ‘defeat the US’ and ‘spread the Iranian Islamic revolution’, experts warn .
“We pretend we are not at war. But the Iranians and the Houthis are at war with us,” Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Iran-backed militants launched a new attack on another ship in the Red Sea – a key shipping artery – targeting a container ship en route from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan with naval missiles.
The group has launched at least 100 attacks on 14 different commercial and merchant ships in the Red Sea over the past month, a senior US military official said last week, CNN reported.
But sinking ships is not the main goal of the attacks, according to Roggio.
“Targeting itself is enough,” the military expert said.
“The Houthis and Iranians are dictating the transit of ships on the high seas. It’s incredible and the world seems powerless to stop it.
Houthi forces intensified attacks on ships passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait – the southernmost entrance to the Red Sea and a vital corridor for trade in the Mediterranean – following Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October and the subsequent war in Gaza, claiming they only targeted ships bound for the Jewish nation.
But the group has repeatedly fired on – and even boarded – ships with no 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 halted operations in the Red Sea.
Dictating the terms of passage on one of the world’s most vital shipping lanes and disrupting trade across the globe is the Houthis’ real goal – and part of an Iranian plot to force the United States out of the Middle “East,” Roggio said.
“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 to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Defeating Israel means defeating the Saudis,” he explained.
“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 to take full control of the country.
They are just one of many extremist groups in the region – including Hamas and Lebanon-based Hezbollah – who receive support and marching orders from Iran and call themselves the “Axis of Resistance.” .
“These are militias, mainly Shiite militias, which are supported, financed and trained by the Iranians. Iraqi and Syrian militias are attacking US bases in Iraq and Syria,” Roggio said.
If the Houthis manage to disrupt trade in the region enough to force the United States’ hand in persuading Israel to abandon its campaign to completely eradicate Hamas in Gaza, it would be a major victory for Iranian influence around the world. .
“If Hamas survives this war, it will be a defeat for Israel and a victory for the Axis of Resistance and a victory for Iran,” Roggio explained.
“They will prove that Iran and its allies can determine the political outcome of wars in the Middle East. »
The United States responded to escalating attacks in the Red Sea by sending the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier group to the region as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, 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 such a defense strategy, without aggression, is useless.
He argued that the Biden administration’s reluctance to respond with force was a victory for Iran.
“We are teaching our enemies and our adversaries that we are not serious and that we should not be taken seriously,” he said.
Rather than the United States fearing an escalation, Roggio added, Biden must make the Iranians fear the United States.
“We do not need to wage all-out war against Iran. But we certainly have the capacity to make the Iranians pay,” he insisted.
“If the Iranians want to play this game, they have to bluff. Otherwise, they will continue. What they are doing now is successfully shutting down international shipping. How long are we going to deal with this?
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