2 min read

US UK airstrikes risk strengthening Houthi rebels’ position in Yemen and the region

Featured Image

The U.S.- and U.K.-led airstrikes on the Houthi group in Yemen on January 11, 2024, targeting approximately 60 locations across 16 sites, mark a significant development in the Middle East conflict.

The strikes, in response to Houthi attacks on commercial ships and their missile launches towards Israel, have broader implications for the region.

The Houthis, an Iran-backed militia controlling northern Yemen, had experienced a decline in domestic support due to a temporary ceasefire with Saudi Arabia. However, the Israel-Gaza conflict revitalized the Houthis, offering them a renewed sense of purpose by aligning with the Palestinian cause. The U.S. and U.K. strikes, intended to disrupt Houthi capabilities, may inadvertently reinforce the Houthi narrative of resisting Western imperialism, enhancing their image among supporters.

The Houthi propaganda machine has effectively framed them as freedom fighters opposing Western aggression. Seaborne raids and hostage-taking incidents have garnered domestic support, with captured vessels becoming symbols of resistance. Despite Western efforts to degrade Houthi capabilities, these actions may play into the group's narrative, strengthening their political position.


Metis Insights: Background to the Iran - Israel Shadow War


Furthermore, the Houthis have successfully linked their cause with that of Palestine, leveraging appeals through mosques and text campaigns to raise support. The U.S.-U.K. strikes, while aiming to curb Houthi attacks on maritime vessels, risk evoking memories of past Western interventions in the Muslim and Arab world, potentially damaging U.S. credibility and serving as a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations.

The absence of key regional powers in the coalition against the Houthis raises doubts about its effectiveness, especially considering the sensitivity of the Palestinian cause. The strikes also pose challenges for Yemen's civil war, potentially reigniting conflict as the Houthis, emboldened by external aggression, may seek to gain more control. The Houthi rivals face a delicate situation, torn between condemning Houthi attacks and expressing support for the Palestinians, as the conflict takes complex geopolitical turns in the Middle East. 

Source: The Conversation