Biden’s Indecision on Houthi Conflict Could Have Deadly Consequences

( – The U.S. Navy has been fighting against Houthi forces in Yemen for eight months, a period much longer than the first Gulf War. Navy sailors have been vigilant, battling ships, and taking out some of the enemy’s combat capabilities. Yet, the Houthis and their Iranian supporters seem undeterred.

Commercial mariners have taken notice. Over 50 attacks on ships in Yemeni waters have left three dead. The marine transportation industry has largely abandoned the Red Sea, turning the strategic sea lane into a “ghost town,” as one Navy Commanding Officer described it.

The absence of civilian shipping has intensified Houthi attacks on allied naval forces. U.S. Navy commanders have detailed the relentless barrage of missiles and drones. Each encounter leaves the ships with mere seconds to respond. One officer highlighted the risks, saying that a single misstep could lead to catastrophic consequences, reminiscent of the USS Stark incident in 1987 when Iraqi missiles killed 37 sailors.

The Navy faces a race against time. Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute noted that the Houthis are on the brink of launching attacks that the U.S. might not be able to thwart every time, leading to significant damage. Similar incidents, like an Iran-backed militia’s strike in Jordan last year, have had deadly outcomes.

The question arises: Why is the world’s most powerful Navy in such a vulnerable position? The Biden administration’s reluctance to address the threat in Yemen and its ties to Iran is part of the problem. The administration’s “relentless diplomacy” approach has done little to deter aggressors, as seen with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Meanwhile, the Houthis continue their aggressive actions.

Israel’s strategy against Hamas is clear and decisive: destroy Hamas. The U.S. could benefit from a similar approach towards the Houthis, aiming to eliminate their capacity to attack both shipping and Israel. The Trump administration’s decision to kill Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani in 2020 forced Iran to reconsider its actions. A strong stance against Houthi attacks and Iranian support could have a similar effect.

China’s President Xi Jinping will likely observe this indecision and factor it into his plans regarding Taiwan.

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