The Houthis took a hit in the Red Sea, so what's next?
Overnight US and UK forces struck better that 70 targets in Houthi controlled areas of Yemen with ship-launched tomahawk missiles and fighter jets against logistical hubs, supply facilities and defense systems. The move wasn’t a shock – everyone knew it was coming. The Iranian spy-ship Behshad was tracked high-tailing it back to Iran, and the Houthi’s took to hiding their weapons caches. And, according to the Houthis, the strikes didn’t do much. According to US Intelligence, however, unconfirmed social media footage shows secondary explosion after the strikes – suggesting that the hits did destroy weapons caches.
The Houthis were already miffed that the US Navy sank a few boatloads of their teammates trying to hijack a boat load of… the other team. Houthi management has had a hard time articulating who that is, exactly. And so, they’ve have vowed a terrible vengeance, but strictly speaking, they declared war on both the United States and Israel last week and it didn’t really move the needle – they haven’t even won their own civil war yet.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Long of the British maritime-security firm Neptune P2P Group, said “there will be a period of 24 to 72 hours where shipping will take a hiatus…Longer-term, it will depend on the Houthis.” And of course if they can get resupplied.
Mind, all people have the right to exist and all that business but in the grand scheme of things, or even in the small scheme of things, the geopolitical fact remains that Yemen simply doesn’t matter much. In an era of proxy wars, though, that’s not question to ask.
So what are the knock ons?
Iran, on the other hand, does matter, just not as much as it wishes it did. While condemning the Western strikes, Tehran is going to great lengths to point out that while it supports the Houthis, it does not control or direct them. This is important as it does look like they’ve managed to lose control over their goons in Yemen, and they want the world to know it. So Tehran will shake its fist and condemn the US and Israel, maybe call on another jihad, but the regime is in a very tight spot: They know good and well that they can’t, as a country or a regime, survive a direct fight with the US, much less a coalition including Bahrain, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. Now that fight is one step closer.
The Hamas Israel war is an old-fashioned Cold War proxy – with the US backing Israel and Iran backing Hamas. Each backer has its own a front man, as it were. Now the US is fighting the Houthis directly and without a proxy. That only leaves a very small step to a straight-up US v Iran match up that Iran simply cannot win. Certainly not with ISIS smelling blood in the water, and ramping up its terrorism in-country.
Moscow will give the West the stink eye but not much else. The conflict will draw it closer to Iran, and Moscow will intensify attacks across Ukraine to make some point only they can see.
China is a different story – the 800 lbs gorilla always is. They are in a tricky spot, but not a tight as Iran. Beijing is not likely to do much, not openly at any rate. US proxies taking a swing at Iranian proxies was one thing, but a sluggish China with a recently purged military is now facing situation where the two largest three lieutenants – Russia and Iran – are on the verge of open hostilities with two of its three top export markets – Europe and the US. It’s third lieutenant – North Korea – just reminded the world that the Korean War is still going on against all those American troops stationed there.
Australia is another calculation Beijing has to make. It isn’t so much a huge export market, but for raw materials China must import. After a trade spat a few years ago, the Aussies pretty much proved to Beijing that the country can’t function without them. And if India gets involved – and if the naval war spreads to Iran, it probably will – this will be an enormous military problem for the China’s PLA, the week after a corruption scandal – rockets were filled with water, rather fuel - led to a purge of the higher ranks.
The good news is for the people of Ukraine. Not even Tommy Tuberville, who never won a national championship, will be able to put a blanket on all that funding being held up in Washington once a real shooting match starts.