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“Biden Administration Struggles to Stop Iran-Backed Houthi Attacks on Ships in Red Sea”


The Biden Administration is facing challenges in its efforts to stop Iran-backed Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea. Despite significant strikes carried out by the US on the group in recent weeks, the Houthis continue to fortify their weapons stockpile inside Yemen. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh acknowledged the Houthis’ large arsenal and sophisticated weapons, which they receive from Iran.

US officials have been grappling with how to increase pressure on the Houthis, as the use of force alone is proving ineffective and expensive. Some argue that targeting Houthi leaders rather than their weapon stocks should be the focus. The US strategy has shifted to striking Houthi weaponry inside Yemen pre-emptively, but there is no clear assessment of the percentage of equipment destroyed.

While the US has targeted numerous Houthi sites in Yemen, the group is digging in and building tunnels near Yemen’s western coast. Some officials see this as a positive sign, indicating that the strikes are having a psychological impact. The Houthis are increasingly concerned about their senior leadership being targeted and have become more paranoid.

Former US officials believe that the failure to deter the Houthis is due to the focus on destroying weapons and equipment rather than targeting Houthi leaders. They point to the success of deterring Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria by striking their leaders. The recent increase in Houthi attacks, including the deployment of an unmanned underwater drone, has raised concerns among US officials.

The Biden administration faces challenges in ramping up military action against Houthi targets, particularly regarding the legality of the campaign. Questions have been raised about whether authorization from Congress is required to continue the campaign beyond a 60-day limit imposed by the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

Some officials believe that a stronger international pressure campaign is needed to underscore how the attacks impede humanitarian aid shipments to vulnerable populations. The Houthis are concerned about their public image and have tried to portray themselves as fighting for the Palestinian cause. However, some officials believe that the attacks would stop if Israel ended its war in Gaza.

The State Department and Pentagon are working to challenge the Houthi narrative and turn public opinion against them. They highlight the attacks on ships carrying aid to Yemen and the environmental risks posed by sinking ships. The US is also seeking support from its Arab allies to convey to the Houthis that they are becoming a pariah on the global stage.

Although Iran has expressed concerns about the Houthis’ tactics, there are no signs yet that it is withholding support from the group. The US continues to interdict Iranian weapons shipments to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The situation in Yemen remains complex, with the Biden administration facing challenges in deterring Houthi attacks. The focus on striking weapons and equipment rather than targeting Houthi leaders has been criticized by some former officials. A stronger international pressure campaign and support from Arab allies are seen as crucial in addressing the issue.

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