News BlogGulf Middle EastMissions Operationsmaritime piracy

[News] In the Red Sea, the Houthis are not disarming. The Americans respond. The Allied front is cracking

(B2) In the Red Sea, exchanges of fire continue between the Allies and the Houthi rebels. The coalition toughens its tone, but division emerges. Americans and British are campaigning for preventive strikes. And take action. Most Europeans except the Netherlands fear an escalation and prefer a defensive posture.

Military strikes on Yemen and the Houthis (Photo: US CentCom)

An American destroyer targeted

A " anti-ship cruise missile was fired » from the Houthi areas of Yemen towards the destroyer « USS Laboon (DDG 58), in the southern Red Sea », Sunday (January 14) around 16:45 p.m. (Sanaa time), announced US CentCom, the American command responsible for the Middle East area. The missile has “ was shot down near the coast of Hodeidah by American warplanes ". " Without injury or damage » is it specified.

A first strike on Houthi bases in Yemen

It can be seen as a response to a strike carried out by American forces against a Houthi radar site in Yemen. A first series of strikes was carried out during the night from Thursday to Friday (12 janvier). At 2:30 a.m. (Sanaa time), US Central Command forces, in coordination with the United Kingdom, carried out joint strikes on Houthi targets. Objective : " degrade » the capacity of the Houthis « to continue their illegal and reckless attacks on U.S. and international shipping and commercial shipping in the Red Sea ". Aimed target : " radar systems, air defense systems, as well as storage and launch sites for unmanned aerial systems of one-way attack, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles ».

Minimal support

Strikes carried out “ with support from Australia, Canada, Netherlands and Bahrain » it is specified. But " unrelated and (well) distinct from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a defensive coalition of more than 20 countries operating in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden » takes great care to specify the US press release. Note that only one EU country — the Netherlands — was associated with the ad hoc coalition under American leadership. “ Non-operational support » takes great care to specify the government in The Hague.

Second strike

A second strike was carried out by theUSS Carney (DDG 64), an American Burleigh Burke-class destroyer, on the night of Friday to Saturday (January 13), at 3:45 a.m. (Sanaa time), using Tomahawk land attack missiles, targeting a “ Houthi radar site ". A kind " follow-up action ". The first not having a priori not quite reached its target? These strikes are unrelated and distinct from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a defensive coalition of more than 20 countries operating in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Aden » takes great care to specify this time the American command. A way of clearing oneself of a very present internal opposition.

The large-scale attack

These strikes are intended as a response to the attack “ large scale » carried out by the Houthis on Tuesday (January 9). At 21:16 p.m. (local), a salvo of 18 OWA-type drones, two cruise missiles and a ballistic missile were launched simultaneously from Yemeni bases, targeting ships in the Red Sea, indicates US CentralCom. All intercepted by the combined efforts of F18 aircraft from the four American ships — USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Gravely (DDG 107), USS Laboon (DDG 58), USS Mason (DDG 87) — and the British HMS Diamond (D34). No injuries or damage were reported (1).

Quiet disapproval of most Europeans

Most of the Americans' European allies – France, Italy, Spain in particular in a visible way, Greece in a more discreet way – disapprove of this type of strikes or, rather, if they do not oppose them, do not want to be associated with them. Some thus signed the US declaration of January 3 (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, etc.) condemning the Houthi attacks. But not France or Spain for example. And the list of supports is reduced as events progress. Italy (and Norway outside the EU) thus marked the occasion, refusing to sign the latest declaration on retaliatory strikes, not automatically sharing the same definition of self-defense (cf. Booklet 16.01.2024). Let's not talk about Turkey, which has a different assessment of the conflict in the Middle East than the Americans. Autonomously, the 27 rather organize themselves to prepare their own operation (read: [Confidential] Faced with Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, a European operation is being planned…).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: [Verbatim] Houthi tactics put to the test in the Red Sea. The reaction of the marines (E. Slaars)

  1. According to the accounts of the maritime forces, the Houthi forces have carried out, since November 19, 2023, the start of hostilities against merchant navy ships, no less than 28 attacks against ships (especially container ships) near the Bab Strait. -el-Mandeb, in the south of the Red Sea and in the Gulf of Aden, using observation drones and explosives, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).