US in talks with Gulf allies about military action against Houthis.

The United States has been consulting with its Gulf allies about possible military action against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels in response to their increasingly brazen attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, according to several people with knowledge of the talks.

The talks are in a preliminary phase, and both the U.S. and its partners continue to prefer diplomacy over direct confrontation, said the people, who asked not to be identified because of the matter’s sensitivity. They added that the fact that talks are taking place underscores how seriously the US takes the threat.

US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said on Thursday that the Biden administration “has not ruled out the possibility of taking military action” against the Houthis but that, for now, it is focused on forming a maritime coalition to protect the Sea. Red, through which 12% of world trade and most of the energy supply from the Middle East to Europe passes.

The Houthis would not have been able to carry out the attacks without “significant” military and intelligence support from Iran, he said.

According to the Pentagon, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conveyed a similar message to his Saudi counterpart, Prince Khalid Bin Salman. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. is in talks to assemble a naval force “with as much participation as possible from as many countries as possible” that could escort ships in the Red Sea as a defense.

Israeli targets

The diplomatic moves follow a series of drone and missile attacks by Houthi rebels against commercial ships they say have links to Israel, making them “legitimate targets.” The assaults began shortly after Israel launched its war against Hamas in early October and have overlapped with broader opposition in the Arab world to the campaign in the Gaza Strip and its rising death toll.

More than 17,000 Palestinians have died to date, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health. Hamas, which sparked the conflict with its deadly incursion into Israel on October 7, is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union and is also backed by Iran. 

In comments emailed to Bloomberg News, U.S. envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said he was back in the Middle East “to continue intense U.S. diplomacy and regional coordination to safeguard maritime security in the Red Sea and Gulf.” of Aden.”

He said this came amid Iranian-sponsored Houthi attacks that threaten “nearly two years of joint progress to end the war in Yemen.”

Complicating any collective US-led effort to stop Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea is that key allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates doubt the Biden administration’s resolve to confront the group, especially during a presidential election year and since it is also trying to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from turning into a regional war. 

More than 17,000 Palestinians have died to date, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health. Hamas, which sparked the conflict with its deadly incursion into Israel on October 7, is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union and is also backed by Iran.

In comments emailed to Bloomberg News, U.S. envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said he was back in the Middle East “to continue intense U.S. diplomacy and regional coordination to safeguard maritime security in the Red Sea and Gulf.” of Aden.”

He said this came amid Iranian-sponsored Houthi attacks that threaten “nearly two years of joint progress to end the war in Yemen.”

Complicating any collective US-led effort to stop Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea is that key allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates doubt the Biden administration’s resolve to confront the group, especially during a presidential election year and since it is also trying to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from turning into a regional war.

Saudi Arabia has also approached Iran with an offer to boost cooperation and invest in its sanctions-hit economy if it can prevent regional proxies from triggering a larger conflict.

Saudi Arabia is trying to sign a permanent ceasefire with the Houthis to end eight years of war with the group, an effort that the United States supports. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates are “interested in reopening the Yemen war,” said Ayham Kamel, director of Middle East and North Africa research at the Eurasia Group.

American destroyer

Last week, the Houthis unleashed a several-hour barrage of missiles and drones against three commercial vessels and possibly the destroyer USS Carney, which was sent to the Red Sea in mid-October to defend the waterway.

An Israeli-linked cargo ship seized last month by the Houthis is believed to be anchored in Al-Hudaydah, west of Sanaa. Reuters and the EPA news agencies published photos showing anti-American and anti-Semitic slogans plastered on the ship’s cabin and Yemeni men dressed in traditional attire raising their fists and taking selfies on the deck. 

The attacks have increased ship insurance premiums in the region, while some companies, particularly those with ties to Israel, have diverted their ships despite the additional time and costs, said Noam Raydan, senior researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“The risk of an escalation or miscalculation leading to deeper trade shock waves cannot be ruled out,” he said.

Bloomberg News