Sunday, December 17, 2023


 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


On Saturday, Houthis, an Iran-backed group, launched attacks on U.S. naval and commercial ships in the Red Sea.  The naval destroyer USS Carney shot down 14 attack drones launched by Houthi.  The goal of Houthi’s attacks were to disrupt the commercial shipping lanes. It worked because Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, halted all shipping through the area.  The Pentagon has moved significant naval presence off the coast of Yemen to support a potential U.S. response to the attacks. 

     The Houthi movement emerged in Yemen in the 1990s as an opposition group made up primarily of Shia Muslims.  Due to their intimidation type tactics, the Houthi movement is considered to be the Yemeni mafia.  The Houthis goal is to govern all of Yemen and support movements against the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia.  After the Israel-Hamas war broke out, Houthis started firing missiles at Israeli cities from their position in northern Yemen.  Houthis has stated they will continue to attack Israel until it is destroyed.  Three observations:

     First, in 2021, President Biden de-listed Houthis from a sanctions list against terrorist groups.  President Trump, as he was leaving office, placed Houthis on the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.  Biden’s removal upset Saudi Arabia and with reason.  Houthis has launched more than 1,000 attacks on Saudi in recent years.  The group gets their funding and training from Iran.  Houthis should have never been removed from the FTO list, but Biden wanted to send a message and play hardball with Saudi in the early days of his administration.  He thought he could negotiate with the Iranians- a foolish belief.  Back in March, the Iranians agreed to stop funding Houthis in their attacks on Saudi, but they never lived up to the agreement.  Houthis should be immediately put back on the FTO/sanctions list.  The removal has been part of the reason they got the funding they needed to launch the attacks.  Forty bipartisan U.S. House members sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling for Houthis to be re-classified as an FTO and legislation has been put forward calling for sanctions against Yemen. 

     Second, the Biden administration has told Israel they would handle Houthis.  But clearly there is a reluctance to strike back at Houthis.  Biden appears more concerned about his shaky agreement with Yemen and Iran than dealing with terrorists.  U.S. military leaders have warned retaliation against Houthi remains an option, but until Biden recognizes that negotiating with terrorists is foolhardy, Houthis will continue to lob missiles and launch attack drones.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has allegedly told President Biden they will hit Houthis since the US appears unwilling to do so. 

     Third, economics will ultimately drive action.  The Red Sea is a major global trade artery.  If Houthis is successful at slowing/stopping the flow of ships, supply and demand will kick in.  Oil, grain and consumer goods pricing will move up.   2024 is an election year and Biden can ill afford to have more inflation or ‘supply chain’ issues when he is on the ballot.

     Since President Biden took office, prices have increased +17.4% and wages have increased +13%.  Only President Carter had a higher inflation rate- +26.2%- at this point in his presidency.  Because money is the driver, expect Biden to reverse his boneheaded decision to remove Houthis from the FTO list to keep the shipping lanes open  and prices down.

     The Houthis slogan is, “Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam.”  That, in itself, should have been reason enough to keep them on the FTO list.       

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