Airstrikes on Houthi Targets: Crisis in Middle East Must Not Escalate Further

U.S. and British forces launched air strikes against military bases of Houthi armed rebels in Yemen. There are fears that the war in the Palestinian territory of Gaza could become more widespread. The crisis in the Middle East must not deepen further.

The Houthis have repeatedly attacked and captured civilian vessels in the Red Sea under the pretext of opposition to the Israeli invasion of Gaza. They claim that their targets are ships associated with Israel, but a merchant ship operated by Japanese company Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line) was captured in November last year.

The series of attacks are criminal acts that threaten the safety of the crews. These outrageous violations of freedom of navigation are unacceptable.

Many shipping companies have stopped operating in the Red Sea and have switched to a route via the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of Africa. This is said to add more than 10 days to the time cargo spends in transit. The negative impact of increased logistical costs on the global economy is immeasurable.

The U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution demanding that the Houthis immediately cease their attacks on merchant ships and other vessels, and it is clear that the Houthis are to blame.

The U.S. and British forces attacked Houthi drones, cruise missiles, and radar installations. Their objective of reducing the military capabilities of the Houthis and restoring security in the Red Sea is understandable.

The question is, what moves will be made by the Houthis and their backer, Iran.

The Houthis have declared that they would retaliate and may continue and intensify their attacks on merchant ships. If Iran expands its arms and personnel support to the Houthis, it is inevitable that tensions in the Middle East will increase further.

Iran views the United States and Israel as enemies, and it has the power to influence regional affairs. To prevent the situation from spiraling out of control, Iran should cooperate in achieving calm, including in its dealing with the Houthis.

What is important is to end the fighting in Gaza by Israel and the Islamist organization Hamas as soon as possible and to rescue the residents of Gaza from the humanitarian crisis.

There is no denying the aspect that Israel’s excessive attacks on Gaza have enabled the Houthis and other opponents to claim a justification for hostile activity.

Despite efforts at persuasion by the United States and others, the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly carried out indiscriminate attacks that go beyond the scope of self-defense and have increased the number of Gazan residents killed. Three months have passed since the invasion of Gaza, but there is still no sign of settling the situation.

The situation in various parts of the Middle East is very volatile. The root cause of this is the Gaza crisis. The international community, with key roles played by Japan, the United States and Europe, must move actively toward a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2024)