The US has formally announced the launch of a new military operation in the Red Sea aimed at responding to attacks on commercial shipping by Yemen’s Houthis that started in response to the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the initiative, dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian, while on a trip to the region and said the other countries taking part include the UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain.
The Houthi attacks have forced some of the world’s largest shipping lines to suspend Red Sea transits, which risks a major impact on the global economy. The British energy giant BP announced Monday that it was stopping all shipments of oil and gas through the waters.
The Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah, have vowed to target all ships heading to and from Israel and said the only way to “restore calm” to the region is through a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. The Houthis have shown no sign of backing down and announced on Monday that they launched two drone attacks on commercial vessels.
The US is considering taking military action against the Houthis, which would involve bombing Yemen. The US has backed a Saudi-UAE coalition against the Houthis since 2015, but it’s rare that the US takes direct military action against them.
Bloomberg reported that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are split on how the US should respond. The UAE wants military action and for the US to redesignate the Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization,” which would make the implementation of a Yemen peace deal impossible.
For their part, the Saudis fear that military action could provoke more Houthi attacks and break the fragile truce that’s held relatively well in Yemen since April 2022. Before the ceasefire, the Houthis had launched multiple successful missile and drone attacks against Saudi oil facilities.