Craig Whittaker MP: US and UK airstrikes against Yemen's Houthi rebels

An RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off. (Photo by MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images)An RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off. (Photo by MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images)
An RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off. (Photo by MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images)
​The news of late has focused heavily on the airstrikes carried out against Houthi rebel targets in Yemen.

Craig Whittaker MP writes: The UK and US conducted large-scale air and missile strikes on Houthi rebel facilities across Yemen on Monday. The UK and US militaries, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, hit eight Houthi targets in Yemen in response to the Houthis’ continued attacks.

This is the second time US and UK forces have conducted joint air and missile strikes on the Houthis in Yemen. Yet, despite the coverage of these airstrikes, media coverage of the Houthi rebels and their actions seems severely lacking.

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Since mid-November 2023, the Yemen-based, Iran-backed Houthi rebel group has attacked dozens of commercial ships in the Red Sea, with no signs of slowing down. An exodus of shipping companies from the region now threatens to scuttle supply chains and increase consumer prices just as global inflation begins to ebb.

The Houthis say their strikes are directed at boats with Israeli interests, and that the attacks will continue until Israel ends its war in Gaza. But in practice, the Houthis have targeted ships indiscriminately. The shipping industry is notoriously opaque, with vessel ownership and operation, crew nationality, and flag of registry often all differing from one and other.

Fearing attacks, major shippers including global leader A P Møller-Mærsk have announced plans to avoid the Red Sea and the Suez Canal—diverting some $200 billion in trade.

The Red Sea is one of the most important arteries in the global shipping system, with one-third of all container traffic flowing through it. Any sustained disruption in trade there could send a ripple effect of higher costs throughout the world economy. This is particularly true of energy.

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Twelve percent of seaborne oil and eight per cent of liquified natural gas transit the Suez Canal. Avoiding the Red Sea means abandoning one of the most common global shipping routes from Asia to Europe.

Indeed, 40 percent of Asia-Europe trade normally transits the sea. Ships shunning the Red Sea will have to instead sail around the Horn of Africa, which can cost $1 million more round trip in additional fuel costs.

Some shipping companies are already passing down these expenses. France’s CMA CGM, the world’s second-largest shipper by market share, recently announced that it would double its rates for shipping from Asia to Europe.

A joint statement released by the UK and the US read: “Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let us reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.”

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Rishi Sunak should be applauded for these strikes against the Houthis. International trade is constrained by eight primary maritime chokepoints, hard realities imposed by immutable geography. The United Kingdom has long recognized a vital national security interest in ensuring freedom of navigation through each of them. These strikes helped protect those interests.