U.S. Has Launched 230 Attacks on Houthis Over Red Sea Disruption

Yves here. Aside from the blip earlier this week when three underseas cables were cut in Yemen waters (and the Houthis strongly denied responsibility), the campaign by the Houthis against Israel-bound and connected shipping in the Red Sea has retreated somewhat from the news despite the continuing costs and disruption it is inflicting on shippers and customers.

However the OilPrice story below recaps fresh Congressional testimony about US efforts to Do Something about the Houthi’s chokehold. From Bloomberg:

The US has struck 230 targets in Yemen following Houthi-led attacks against shipping in the Red Sea, a top Pentagon official said, offering the most detailed public accounting of the airstrikes so far.

Late last month, American forces also interdicted ships carrying lethal aid from Iran to the Houthis, including drone components, missile warheads, anti-tank missile assemblies and other material, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Daniel Shapiro told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee on Tuesday.

He said that aid was “in clear violation of international law,” and that while US strikes have likely destroyed hundreds of Houthi weapons, the group appears “committed to sustaining standoff maritime attacks with their remaining inventory of weapons.”

The trumpeting of 230 attacks comes off as a tell. Remember the 85 strikes on Iran-connected assets after three servicemembers died in strikes on base operations maybe in Jordan but more likely in Syria (where they would be completely legitimate targets), which as Scott Ritter put it, was basically a fireworks show? Or the 500 “are you kidding me” sanctions on Russia after Navalny’s death when the US and EU sanctions bazooka has been either ineffective or a backfire? In other words, focusing on numbers as opposed to effect looks to be an admission of impotence.

Notice also the “their remaining inventory of weapons” by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Shapiro. This is a watered-down variant of the line Western officials repeatedly sold on Russia: “They are running out of missiles.”

A confirmation of US ineffectiveness is Senators attacking the US Prosperity Guardian operation in the hearings. No one would question its legality in our rules-based order if it were perceived to be working:

Further updates via Twitter:

Note that other commentators pointed out that China was benefitting another way from the choking of Red Sea shipping, via customers shifting transport to land routes, using segments of the China Belt and Road Initiative and validating the attractiveness of further investment in it.

By Charles Kennedy, a writer at OilPrice. Originally published at OilPrice

As a German warship joins the fight against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis in the Red Sea, the U.S Department of Defense told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that it has struck 230 targets in Yemen since the Biden administration ordered airstrikes last month.

On Wednesday, U.S. Central Command also said it shot down five Houthi airborne drones in the Red Sea overnight.

Over the weekend, U.S. forces struck Houthi land targets, hitting underground weapons storage facilities, missile storage facilities, air defense systems and other key targets. U.S. forces have also intercepted an Iranian vessel carrying missile parts to Yemen.

“Despite the Houthis’ claims, these attacks are almost entirely unrelated to Israel and Israeli-affiliated shipping, and to be clear, any such attacks would be entirely illegitimate anyway. These are indiscriminate attacks that are as much an affront to maritime commerce as is piracy,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Daniel Shapiro told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee, as reported by Bloomberg.

Shapiro also said the Houthi attacks have affected 55 countries who rely on trade through the Red Sea, with more than 12 major shippers suspending transit through the area to date, and insurance costs rising.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), approximately 7 million barrels per day of crude and petroleum products traverse the Red Sea, representing 12% of seaborne crude oil trade.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) noted in its February oil report that “while oil on water surged by 60 mb [million barrels] in December due to end-year tax considerations and as several tanker owners diverted ships away from the Red Sea to around the Cape of Good Hope, observed onshore stocks declined by nearly 40 mb”.

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  1. Es s Ce tera

    Rubymar caused an 18 mile oil slick? For comparison, the Deepwater Horizon slick at one point was 68,000 square miles and landed over 125 miles of Mississipi, Florida and Louisiana, and Exxon Valdez was 1300 miles of Alaskan shoreline damage.

    Maybe they should think about not having any tankers in the area, at all.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Sounds like the Pentagon has been really boxed in. After Ansar Allah did a partial lockdown of the Red Sea, the US military – along with other western militaries – had to be seen “doing something.” As the US military has been bombing countries almost non-stop for over twenty year, that is what they went with even though there were no real hard targets in Yemen that might change what Ansar Allah were doing. But these attacks have not been effective and what is worse, the US is running short of missiles because of the Ukraine and Gaza. And China still beckons. There has got to be a point where there will be so few missiles left that they may have to pull out of the Red Sea so what then? Start negotiations? Try to pay off Ansar Allah? Maybe the assumption is that if Israel can crush Gaza quick enough and finish it, that then Ansar Allah will stop firing missiles. But I see no evidence that that might be a possibility. And then there are those pesky November elections creeping up.

  3. ilsm

    US/UK is going no where!

    US tactical aircraft run about 60% fully mission capable in casual training schedules. The funding is for >80%. These bombings are expensive and wear out already nearly worn out aircraft. New F-35’s are even harder to keep “ready”, whatever that is for an aircraft that cannot pass operational test.

    The anti Houthi coalition has been bombing them for years and gets no where!

    It would be a lot cheaper and the right thing to just stop giving Israel the bombs and rockets!

    1. vao

      And there is worse: Germany is not capable to restock the missiles shot by that warship because of a lack of production capacity.

      In fact, out of the three missile types that the frigate Hessen carries, replenishment — to a limited extent — is only possible for one of them. For the other two, the arsenals are empty.

      Apart from that, in some functions (especially operators of radars and other sensors), the German navy is experiencing a personnel shortfall of up to 50%. Which means that sending other ships to the Red Sea on a permanent basis would represent a tremendous exertion for it.

      It looks as if Ansarallah will win against NATO just by attrition…

      1. ChrisFromGA

        Yep. Also the longer this silliness continues, the greater the attrition of marginal weapons systems and guidance that can be provided to Ukraine. While the Hessen was unlikely to have ever made it to the Black Sea, some of these missiles being fired, especially the US ones, will need to be replaced and that by definition cannot be used twice, once in the Red Sea, and then again in Ukraine.

        US army is now complaining that without the supplement that Johnson has 86-ed, they will be forced to choose between sending support to Ukraine and degrading their readiness, vs. husbanding weapons and arms for US military readiness needs.

  4. Altandmain

    The Houthis have proven themselves to be able to resist any coalition bombing.

    There isn’t a military solution for defeating the Houthis. The terrain of Yemen vastly favors the defender.

    Any bombings just increase their support. Not would a ground invasion help. Yemen is a very mountainous nation and difficult to conduct military operations.

    The reality is that the US should have insisted the Israeli government cease fire. But these are neocons. They will wage wars that leave the US weakened.

    A even more insane consideration is that the US can’t beat the Houthis. What makes them think that escalating against the Russians and Chinese, who have far deadier missiles would be a good idea? That’s the neocons.

  5. Lefty Godot

    “Despite the Houthis’ claims, these attacks are almost entirely unrelated to Israel and Israeli-affiliated shipping, and to be clear, any such attacks would be entirely illegitimate anyway. These are indiscriminate attacks that are as much an affront to maritime commerce as is piracy,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Daniel Shapiro told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee

    That first part’s an outright lie. Wow. If he was speaking under oath, Daniel Shapiro should go to jail for that statement.

  6. Schopsi

    The Empire and Israel supporting commentariat under the Phillip Pilkington article on Unherd (certainly the comment sectionat least far from being free of herdmentality) sound pretty desperate at least.

    Carpet bomb Yemen!!

    Send Saudi ground troops into Yemen!!!

    (Somebody points out that the Saudis have no experienced infantry to speak of, which would be the only type of groundforce that could realistically able to operate in Yemen)

    Well, then send in american troops!!!!

    (Somebody dares to point to the british experience).

    Support the legitimate yemeni government so the Sunnis are in charge again!!!!!

    Some discussion on how democracies are far too soft and need to be far more ruthless, with plenty of upvotes for sugestions in that vein.

    Downvotes and plenty of derision for
    anyone sugesting any connection to Gaza, condemning calls for “western surrender”.

    And above all copious amounts of;

    “Bomb Teheran!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  7. marku52

    The “what’s up with shipping” guy has a vid about the RubyMar where he proposes that it is drifting with an anchor hanging, that may have taken out the undersea cables.

    He shows the chart for the area where the RM is drifting, it is infested with cables. So the able dragging damage is possible.

    Also he thinks the RM will sink, with it’s back broken.

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