May 18, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Houthis escalate Red Sea ship attacks in tandem with other Iranian proxies

The Houthis appear to have timed this increase in aggresion with a similarly-felt escalation by Hezbollah in Israel's north.
May 18, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Houthis escalate Red Sea ship attacks in tandem with other Iranian proxies

The Houthis appear to have timed this increase in aggresion with a similarly-felt escalation by Hezbollah in Israel's north.

The Houthis appear to be increasing their attacks. This comes as Hezbollah has also increased threats to Israel in the last week. The Iranian-backed Houthis attacked a ship in the Red Sea with an anti-ship ballistic missile, US Central Command said on May 18.

The Ship, the M/T Wind, is a Panamanian-flagged Greek-owned and operated vessel, CENTCOM said in a statement. “M/T Wind most recently docked in Russia and was bound for China. The impact of the ASBM caused flooding, which resulted in the loss of propulsion and steering. A coalition vessel immediately responded to the distress call by M/T Wind, but no assistance was needed. The crew of M/T Wind was able to restore propulsion and steering, and no casualties were reported. M/T Wind resumed its course under its own power,” the report said.

This is an interesting report because the Houthis have often refrained from attacking ships linked to Russia or China. The US Central Command condemned the Houthi attacks in a post on social media. “This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.”

On May 15 the Houthis also tried to attack ships using drones. A US ship intercepted the attack. “It was determined these systems presented an imminent threat to U.S., coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region. These actions are taken to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S., coalition, and merchant vessels,” the US said at the time.

On May 13 the Houthis also launched a drone toward a ship. They also launched a ballistic missile the same day. US forces destroyed one of the drones and also shot down the ballistic missile. The Houthis also carried out an attack on May 12.

Coincidence?

When one looks at all the attacks, it is clear that the Houthis have sought to increase the attacks to coincide with other Iranian-backed escalation in the region. At the same time, the website Axios reported that US envoy Brett McGurk recently held indirect talks with an Iranian delegation in Oman to de-escalate tensions in the region.

In other news, the USS Carney, a US naval ship that played a key role in confronting Iranian-backed threats in the region in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack, returned to the US on May 12. Overall, US Central Command has played a key role in confronting Iranian-backed threats, primarily from Yemen. In addition, they helped intercept Iranian missiles launched at Israel on April 14. 

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Issues:

Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy