#64128824@Igor Groshev|Dreamstime
Preparing for Longer Conflict in the Red Sea:

Preparing for Longer Conflict in the Red Sea

March 5, 2024
"U.S. attacks won’t sufficiently damage Houthi capabilities as long as Iran continues to support the rebel group." says Gabrielle Reid of S-RM.

With recent U.S.-led airstrikes failing to deter Houthi attacks against vessels in the Red Sea, it’s clear that the Yemen-based militant group maintains the intent to continue its campaign, says Gabrielle Reid, associate director of Strategic Intelligence at S-RM, a corporate and cybersecurity consultancy.

Here are her insights into how significantly these attacks have disrupted the flow of trade and their political implications going forward: 

Ongoing attacks could lead to operational independence for Houthis. The success of the Houthi attacks in disrupting the global flow of trade has regional as well as global significance. This has elevated the Iran-backed group among the various regional militias that are hostile to the U.S. and Israel, including the likes of Hezbollah and militias in Syria and Iraq. And, while no doubt Iran supports the Houthi campaign, the Houthi success has also amplified its potential to operate outside of direct Iranian control.

Houthi attacks have exposed main chokepoints and increased political leverage. While the attacks have been largely motivated by the ongoing Israel/Hamas war, the targeting of merchant vessels by the Houthis and the associated disruptions to international trade have helped the Houthis win broader credibility in Yemen and likely have increased leverage in any future peace talks in the country. Thus, even in the event of a ceasefire in Gaza, the Houthis have demonstrated the vulnerability of the Bab el Mandeb Strait as part of the Red Sea maritime artery, and have shown their control over it.

U.S. attacks won’t sufficiently damage Houthi capabilities as long as Iran continues to support the rebel group. Further U.S.-led airstrikes might temporarily reduce Houthi weapons and materiel stockpiles, but with the current U.S. strategy focused on sufficiently degrading their military capabilities to curtail Red Sea attacks, this is unlikely to fundamentally degrade Houthi capabilities in the coming weeks to months, particularly if we see increased replenishment coming in from Iran.