Houthis : Who are they and why are they attacking Red Sea ships? - Explained

Unravel the complexities of the Houthi rebellion with an in-depth exploration covering historical roots, ideological alliances, military actions, and global implications, particularly in the context of the recent Red Sea conflict.
 Houthis : Who are they and why are they attacking Red Sea ships? - Explained

In the turbulent waters of the Red Sea, the Houthi rebels have emerged as a formidable force, influencing Yemen's destiny and triggering international responses. This comprehensive exploration delves into the historical roots, ideological alliances, military actions, and geopolitical dimensions of the Houthi enigma, with a spotlight on the recent Red Sea conflict.

Yemen
Yemen

Background: The Genesis of Houthi Rebellion

Seeds of Dissent

The Houthi movement's inception in the 1990s reflected the discontent among Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority. Fueled by grievances against corruption, the group, named Ansar Allah, gained momentum under the leadership of Hussein al Houthi.

Escalation to Civil Strife

Tensions escalated into a full-scale civil war by 2014, pitting Houthi rebels against the Yemeni government. President Ali Abdullah Saleh's attempts, backed by Saudi Arabia's military, set the stage for a protracted conflict marked by a humanitarian crisis.

 Human Cost

By 2022, the conflict had claimed an estimated 377,000 lives and displaced four million people, casting a shadow over Yemen's future.

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Houthi Ideology and Strategic Alliances

 The "Axis of Resistance"

Aligning with the Iranian-led "axis of resistance," the Houthis positioned themselves against perceived adversaries – Israel, the US, and the broader Western world. This ideological alignment shapes their actions and garners support from key players.

Hezbollah's Hand

Drawing inspiration from Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels receive extensive military expertise and training, a testament to the enduring influence of this Shia armed group.

 Iran's Shadow

While Iran denies direct involvement, the US contends that Iran supplies weapons and crucial intelligence. This alleged support challenges the UN arms embargo, sparking international scrutiny.

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Houthi Military Actions: Catalyst for Intervention

Red Sea Attacks Trigger Response

Houthi attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea prompted swift international intervention. Led by the US and the UK, air strikes aimed to deter further assaults on vital shipping routes. Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands joined the coalition.

Escalation of Red Sea Threats

The surge in Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, escalating by 500% between November and December, led to major shipping companies diverting vessels and a tenfold increase in insurance costs.

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 Global Dynamics: Who Supports the Houthis?

 Iranian Influence

Beyond ideological alignment, the Houthis' association with Iran extends to suspected weapon supplies. Accusations from the US and Saudi Arabia underscore the geopolitical dimensions of this alliance.

Saudi Arabia's Role

Traditionally rivals, Saudi Arabia's military intervention supports Yemen's government against the Houthi rebels. The Yemeni government, operating from Riyadh since 2015, faces challenges in regaining control.

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Control and Governance: Houthi Territories and Global Implications

Houthi-controlled Strongholds

The Houthi rebels control vital regions, including the capital, Sanaa, and the Red Sea coastline. Governing territories where the majority of Yemen's population resides, they wield influence over taxes and currency.

 Impact on Global Trade

Control of the Red Sea coastline is strategically crucial, affecting nearly 15% of global seaborne trade. Major shipping companies, including Mediterranean Shipping Company and Maersk, altering routes indicate the potential impact on global supply chains and fuel prices.

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Untangling the Houthi Enigma

The Houthi rebels' intricate role in Yemen's geopolitical landscape extends beyond their immediate surroundings. From ideological alliances to military actions and control over vital territories, understanding the Houthis is pivotal in navigating the complexities of the Yemeni conflict.

Acknowledging Complexity

This exploration, while comprehensive, acknowledges the multifaceted dynamics of the Yemeni conflict. The Houthi rebels' actions, alliances, and influences intertwine with regional and global geopolitical complexities, posing challenges for sustainable solutions in Yemen.

This copy is written based on various agency inputs as well as inputs taken from BBC and Al Jazeera

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