Yves here. The US is being revealed as not being able to stop Houthi attacks…which means higher shipping costs and shipping delays (longer average routes = need for more ships which also means backups as shipment origin). That means inflation and supply chain pressure, although Europe is much more in that line of fire than the US…unless the threat to shipping extends beyond the Red Sea to oil transit…..or insurers become concerned, jack up rates on Middle Eastern routes generally, and not just ones that transit the Red Sea. The fact that Iran is starting to mix thing up suggests oil prices could rise. Recall how high they became in 2022 and the impact on inflation.
So far, the insurer action is limited to carriers with certain “links” (how defined?) but the flip side it is more draconian than increasing rates:
As a result of Houthi operations "underwriters are seeking exclusions for vessels with links to the US, UK and Israel when issuing cover for trips through the area. It essentially means they won’t provide insurance" to US, UK, or Israel-linked vessels.https://t.co/TmKbphFit0
— Laleh Khalili 🇵🇸 (@LalehKhalili) January 17, 2024
The reason for the focus on inflation is that what the Biden Administration would be concerned about, adverse economic developments that could (further) dampen its 2024 prospects, the risk of a regional conflagration be damned.
The French Navy just posted these photos as they escort French container ships through the Red Sea. Before the American-led order that followed World War 2 this is how trade was done, with each nation protecting its own ships. Is this the future of globalization? pic.twitter.com/j7XHBBXW9X
— Ryan Petersen (@typesfast) January 16, 2024
But it looks as if the US/UK actions are not completely ineffective:
US seizes Iranian weapons bound for Yemen's Houthi rebels pic.twitter.com/cXW7Nd5hQX
— The Times Of India (@timesofindia) January 17, 2024
And Mr. Market is awfully chipper:
Markets are totally ignoring shipping in the Red Sea, spiralling shipping rates and crashing European imports. Why? Because its an election year and so magical thinking abounds. Repeat after me: “if you buy the bond, the orange man will go away”. 🗳️🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/g46Py13wHr
— Philip Pilkington (@philippilk) January 17, 2024
By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears
When your enemy dupes you into compounding your mistakes, without achieving your military objectives, he is leading you into an escalation of force which will defeat you, sooner or later. Later is more costly, defeat more ruinous, so the Arab-Iranian alliance against Israel and the US is waging the long war they were never before believed capable to fight.
No matter how much force you use, every US Army manual on winning battles and wars says the same thing. Captain B.H. Liddell Hart, the British Army strategist of a generation ago, advised that “for success two major problems must be solved — dislocation and exploitation. One precedes and one follows the actual blow — which in comparison is a simple act.”
Today is Tuesday morning — and it is already plain on the Middle Eastern battlefield that the Anglo-American air attacks against Yemeni targets on Friday and Saturday have “dislocated” none of the capabilities of the Ansarallah government in Sanaa and the Houthi military units.
For exploitation after the air strikes, the initiative has remained instead with the Houthis: they are continuing their attacks on the US Navy fleet in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, keeping them on guard, but demonstrating they are ineffectual to protect US and Israel-connected shipping now diverting from the area. “War is a two-party affair,” old Liddell Hart had said, “in order to hit with effect, the enemy must be taken off his guard.” In the Middle East the enemy has been taken off his guard. That’s to say, the Israelis, the Americans, and the British.
Minutes after midnight on Tuesday, Moscow time, Russian military bloggers began relaying the news from Iran and Yemen of new missile attacks against a Greek-American owned bulker in the Gulf of Aden during the afternoon, and hours later at night, a US mercenary forces unit, a US consulate building, an Israeli base, and the home of a leading oil trader in the Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq.
According to Boris Rozhin’s Colonel Cassad Telegram platform, “the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has officially announced that the ballistic missile attack on US and Mossad bases in Iraq was carried out in response to the bloody terrorist attack in Kerman during commemorative events dedicated to Qassem Soleimani. Local sources in Erbil report at least 8 rocket strikes… At the moment, what is known is that there have been strikes against the following targets by IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] missiles: 1. The American base at Erbil airport. 2. The U.S. Consulate in Erbil. 3. The local headquarters of the Kurdish security service. 4. The private residence of a local businessman [Peshraw Dizayee] associated with the Mossad. There is a high activity of ambulances in Erbil. There is no clarity about the victims, but it is obvious that there will be numbers of them.”
US media reporting after several hours of delay claimed there had been explosions near the US consulate in Erbil but “ ‘no US facilities were impacted. We’re not tracking damage to infrastructure or injuries at this time,’ a U.S. official told ABC News.” On the contrary, Rozhin reported, “according to one of my friends who lives in the centre of Erbil, the blow fell not on the current consulate, but on the new one, which is just being built. There was everything in scaffolding and construction cranes. Eyewitnesses say that they were building something grandiose.”
During Sunday afternoon, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed reported Houthi drone or missile attacks targeting the US Navy destroyer, USS Laboon, which claims to have assisted a USAF fighter to intercept them before they reached the destroyer. CENTCOM also reported Houthi launches “toward the southern Red Sea commercial shipping lanes.”
CENTCOM is saying nothing at all about the fate of the two US Navy F-18 pilots, shot down by Houthi air defence during the first raid on Friday morning and missing at sea since then. Pentagon concealment of the shoot-down — the first air battle success of its kind– has been camouflaged by a half-dozen press releases about the hospitalization and health of the Defense Secretary, General Lloyd Austin. “I continue to recuperate and perform my duties from home,” Austin has claimed.
According to US Army Lieutenant General Douglas Sims (lead image) who heads the staff advising the Joint Chiefs of Staff on operations: “The hope would be that any real thought of [Houthi] retaliation is based on a clear understanding that, you know, we simply are not going to be messed with here…I know we have degraded capability. I don’t believe that they [Houthis] would be able to execute the same way they did the other day. But we will see.” In less than 72 hours what Sims could see has had to be concealed from everyone else.
Not in Moscow.
“The Americans need controlled instability to realize their own plans,” Konstantin Dolgov, once a senior Russian diplomat and now a senator, told Vzglyad. “But this instability has long been out of Washington’s control.”
Yesterday, January 15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and announced “coordination at all levels, emphasizing the unwavering mutual commitment to the fundamental principles of Russian-Iranian relations, including unconditional respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and other principles of the UN Charter, which will be confirmed in the upcoming ‘big’ interstate agreement between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“All levels” includes military coordination. It also means coordination with the Ansarallah representatives in Teheran.
As for the Houthi operations in the Red Sea, Lavrov and Amir-Abdollahian explicitly linked them to the Israeli-American blockade of the Palestinians in Gaza, calling for “an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and unhindered humanitarian access to the enclave to provide urgent assistance to the affected civilian population.”
Earlier on the same day, January 15, the Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met in Teheran with Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, and held detailed talks with Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian. The Indian minister revealed the same order of priorities for India as Lavrov revealed for Russia – strategic state interests shared with Iran for the long-term future, but for now the link between the Houthi shipping campaign and the Gaza blockade. In his tweet, Jaishankar said: “Our bilateral discussion focused on the long term framework for India’s involvement with Chabahar port and the INSTC [International North–South Transport Corridor] connectivity project. Also spoke about threats to maritime shipping in the region. Important that this be speedily addressed. Other issues on the agenda were the Gaza situation, Afghanistan, Ukraine and BRICS cooperation.”
“This is what diplomacy is meant to be,” commented an Indian source in Moscow. “They disagree on a lot but they also know what they need to agree on.”
The Indian government has been briefed that the reason for the strike against the MV Chem Pluto on December 23 was the Israeli ownership of the vessel, not its Saudi oil cargo or the destination for its cargo in India.
The official Yemen declaration of Monday, following the attack against the USS Laboon, has now expanded the targeting to include the US and UK fleets which had taken part in the weekend bombing and missile raids. “The naval forces of the Armed Forces of Yemen conducted a military operation targeting an American ship in the Gulf of Aden. All American and British ships involved in the aggression against our country are considered hostile targets by the Yemeni armed forces. The Yemeni armed forces confirm that a retaliatory strike against American and British attacks is inevitable, and that no attack in the future will go unpunished. The Yemeni armed forces continue to conduct their military operations and implement the decision to block Israeli shipping in the Arab and Red Seas until the aggression stops and the siege of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted.”
“The Yemeni Armed Forces confirm the continuation of commercial traffic in the Arab and Red Seas to all destinations, with the exception of the ports of occupied Palestine, and that they continue to take all defensive and offensive measures within the framework of the right to defend and resist American-British aggression.” https://t.me/s/boris_rozhin January 16 — Min 03:05.
Left, MV Gibraltar Eagle; right, location of the vessel when hit by Houthi missiles, according to the UK Maritime Trade Operations office (UKMTO). The shipping company released a statement confirming the strike but omitting to identify the destination for the vessel.
The attack on the Gibraltar Eagle in the Gulf of Aden, currently in the lead maritime news for today, makes the vessel appear to be unconnected to Israel. The vessel is publicly identified as one of Eagle Bulk Shipping’s fleet; Eagle Bulk Shipping is a New York Stock Exchange-listed company based in Connecticut which has been reporting dwindling profits. But since a takeover transaction was announced last month, the controlling owner is now the Greek company, Star Bulk of Athens. The two Greeks controlling Star Bulk are Petros Pappas and Spyros Capralos. They are shippers of dry bulk commodities — coal, grain, fertilizers, iron ore, steel products. It is not known whether they have been delivering to or loading at Israeli ports. Western vessel tracking publications claim the Gibraltar Eagle had taken on its current cargo of steel products in South Korea and was headed for the Suez Canal when it was hit. At the time, and for several days of sailing before, the vessel had turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal.
Maritime industry sources say the secrecy employed by the Gibraltar Eagle may have been intended to conceal that it is carrying a cargo of South Korean arms and ammunition intended for unloading at a Polish port for onward delivery to the Ukraine; or for an Israeli port. The destination port recorded for the vessel is not showing in the regular western vessel tracking sites.
The sources add this is unusual. Reports on the international arms trade indicate a surge in South Korean production for the Ukraine. Operations managers at Eagle Bulk Shipping offices in the US and Singapore refuse to identify the destination port for their vessel’s cargo.