Thursday, February 29, 2024

Why US-UK are powerless against Houthis in Red Sea

There were 19 nations which had signed for the task force. 

But not just a few European allies (France, Italy, Spain etc) have backed out; some others (Denmark, Holland, Norway) are providing only handful of naval officers. Key West Asian allies of the United States—Saudi Arabia, Egypt—have declined. 

So it’s left to the blood-brothers—the United States and United Kingdom—to walk the talk and try to free the Red Sea where Houthis of Yemen aren’t letting any Israeli ship or its trade to take place. 

The United States can’t afford failure: For its fear is built on its control of the international waterways. It’s the US navy which not only provides a ring of safety to its shores; it also allows the Hegemon an unfettered access around the globe. 

There is also this question of White House’ 2022 National Security Strategy: That it would not permit any nation to “jeopardise freedom of navigation through the Middle East’s waterways, including the Strait of Hormuz (Persian Gulf) and the Bab al-Mandeb (Red Sea).”

The US-UK have realized firing interceptor missiles from its aircraft carriers won’t work. One such set of missiles took out 14 Houthi drones in one-day: Each missile costs $2.1 million while the drones of its enemies are worth a mere $2,000 each. 

It’s reported that on an average, the US is firing missiles worth $28 million everyday to counter the Houthi toys. 

Since Houthis have launched over 100 drones and missile attacks thus far, targeting ships of 35 countries, it implies some $200 million worth of interceptor missiles have been used. 

Let’s say cost is no matter: But the supply of stocks definitely is. 

A Fortis Analysis has observed that the US has 800 SM-2 and SM-6 interceptor missiles on its eight guides missile cruisers and destroyers deployed in the Mediterranean and Red Sea. 

But when the Houthis would deploy a swarm of drone attacks, it would deplete quickly—and they are not easy to replace all that easily. 

The interceptor missiles manufacturer Raytheon could produce less that 50 SM-2 and fewer than 200 SM-6 missiles annually. 

It’s certain that such interceptor missiles won’t hurt Houthis at all since they not just withstood such attacks for eight years by the same forces since 2015 but in reality have only emerged stronger. 

The longer the US persists with such mode of operations, more depleted would be its stock. The message would quickly go around to other parts of the world, more so in the Black Sea and Indo-Pacific Ocean where it wants a fight-to-finish with Russia and China. 

It’s an accepted maxim of any war: The supply must keep coming. If this chain is depleted or is inadequate, the war is lost. 

It’s the same which happened in Ukraine. Moscow has its supply chains in place to carry on its war of attrition. Washington, on the other, has emptied its artillery shells. It aims to have a million shells by 2028 – Russia already is producing 2 millions of shells annually. 

In terms of price too its the same equation as against the Houthis: Russia produces a 152mm artillery at $600 compares to West’s $5,000 upwards for a 155mm artillery shell. 

So what’s the other option the US-UK forces have begun to resort to? 

It is to take out the “archers than to intercept the arrows” as a Pentagon expert puts us. That is to strike at the source rather than intercepting what is being launched from those hubs. 

But what chances this option has of succeeding against the Houthis when it didn’t for nine long years? 

The Houthis, it would appear, has factored it all in their game plan. Indeed, they are welcoming these attacks by this US-UK nexus.

This is what we heard from the Houthis on January 12: “We are now relieved that we are bombed like Gaza. We were ashamed in front of them that they were being bombed and we were not”. 

Sample another such Houthi barb after an attack by the US-UK forces: “We are indifferent to the American and the British: We have faced them for nine years…with the same plane and same weapon.”

So the US-UK is left with a difficult choice: They can’t let Houthis have their way yet if it turns out to be prolonged and a setback in West Asia, the message after Ukraine would spread of US being more of a barking than biting dog. 

As it is, the US is presently bogged down on five separate fronts, as former Indian diplomat M. K. Bhadrakumar reminds us: Ukraine, Gaza-Israel, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. 

None of them look pretty- and more such fronts in Africa are spawning. 

It’s not just the beef of the US which is at stake. There is also the moral spine which is shown missing. 

How do you explain your support to a genocidal state and yet attack those who are taking them on?  

How does it look when you say you are doing this all to protect lives on merchant ships and yet don’t miss a heart-beat on thousands of women and children being blown up in air in Gaza? 

Leave aside morality, even in terms of international law, the US-UK move in Red Sea is illegal. 

As Russia’s man in UN, Vasily Nebenzya, has pointed out: Neither the US-UK attack has anything to do with the right to self-defense nor any authorization was taken from the UNSC under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which decides on actions concerning peace, breaches of peace, and acts of aggression…this aggression also violates Article 2 of the UN Charter. 

Sure for humanity these are bad times—but also good times for the future of it. 

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