The Houthis and Iran’s Red Sea Strategy
Yemen’s civil war is receiving little attention, but the ongoing battle is sure to have global implications.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies have waged war against the Houthis, a Shiite sect closely allied with Iran, who captured Yemen’s capital Sana’a in September 2014. More than five years on, the death toll exceeds 100,000, and Saudi Arabia remains unable to vanquish its far weaker foe.
Meanwhile, 5½ years of near constant conflict have made the Houthis tougher and more experienced. Thanks to recent developments, they are now armed with high-tech weapons. Today the Houthis are entrenched as the gatekeeper of the southern Red Sea—one of the most important trade routes in the world.
The ramifications will be serious, and they will be global.
A Serious Military Threat
On March 3, the Saudi-led coalition intercepted a small fleet of four fishing boats on the Arabian Sea, one of which was packed with explosives. But there was something odd about these vessels: There was no crew. The boats were controlled remotely.
These aquatic suicide drones were intercepted as they attempted to target an oil tanker 90 miles off Yemen’s southern coast in the Arabian Sea. Although the attack failed, it represented a shift in Houthi tactics. While suicide drones have been used before, March 3 represented the Houthis’ first time attacking in a fleet disguised as fishing vessels.
Four days later, the Saudis destroyed six suicide drone boats in the Yemeni port as-Salif.
On February 23, the Saudis intercepted a single suicide drone boat as it aimed to attack a ship near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. Last June, the coalition reported that it had destroyed nine suicide drone boats in the Red Sea that Saudi officials said were “intended to target international shipping.”
The Houthi militia has also increased its use of naval mines. On February 11, Yemeni forces found and dismantled seven mines in the Red Sea. Less than two weeks later, three more were discovered and destroyed in the Bab el-Mandeb strait. As of February 23, over 150 Houthi naval mines have been dismantled in the Red Sea.
Remarkably, the Houthi takeover of the Red Sea has yet to draw the attention of the international media, even though it marks a serious threat to global trade. On March 11, the Foundation of Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal wrote, “Despite being a lesser focus of the Houthi military apparatus, and underreported in the media, naval attacks conducted by the insurgent movement constitute a real threat to shipping in the southern Red Sea and now potentially the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.”
The Houthis are not just a threat to the oceans around Yemen. On February 15, the rebel group claimed to have used an “advanced surface-to-air missile” to shoot down a Tornado fighter jet belonging to Saudi Arabia. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the fighter jet “crashed” while on a mission to support the Yemeni government forces. One of Al Jazeera’s senior political analysts called this new Houthi capability a “very significant” development that “would be a game-changer.”
Houthi rebels now boast a serious arsenal, one that includes ballistic missiles capable of traveling almost 1,300 kilometers; drones that carry explosive payloads; advanced sea mines; and advanced surface-to-air missile batteries capable of downing Saudi jets.
This raises an obvious question: Where did this ragtag militia comprised of shepherds and simple tradesmen get its sophisticated, high-powered military equipment from?
In 2017, an unnamed Iranian official told Reuters that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (irgc) met to discuss ways to “empower” the Houthi militia. At the meeting, the irgc “agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support.”
On Aug. 13, 2019, the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported that Iran had summoned Houthi Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Salam Felita and other key figures to Tehran, where the Houthis were assigned a new terrorist mission in the Red Sea. Following the meeting, Houthi rebels threatened to use a new Iran-made air defense system. Was the Saudi jet shot down by Houthis using an air defense system manufactured in and provided by Iran?
In recent months, several weapons shipments from Iran to Houthi rebels in Yemen have been intercepted, mostly on the Arabian Sea. On February 9, the uss Normandy stopped a stateless sailing vessel on the Arabian Sea. A huge cache of Iran-made weapons was found onboard. According to the official statement of the United States Central Command, “The weapons seized include 150 Dehlavieh anti-tank guided missiles …, three Iranian surface-to-air missiles, Iranian thermal imaging weapon scopes, and Iranian components for unmanned aerial and surface vessels, as well as other munitions and advanced weapons parts” (February 13).
This massive weapons cache was similar to one found on Nov. 25, 2019, when the uss Forrest Sherman seized a vessel carrying 21 anti-tank guided missiles and five “near-fully assembled” surface-to-air missiles. “Those weapons were determined to be of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen,” stated U.S. Central Command.
U.S. defense officials say that Houthi rebels receive “significant Iranian support” and have increased “the lethality and range of their systems,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
In “Iranian Technology Transfers to Yemen,” Conflict Armament Research (car) wrote, “Iran continues to provide enhanced military capabilities to Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces.” The report concluded that Houthi drones are “imported, rather than designed or manufactured in Yemen,” and “produced by Iran’s [state-controlled] Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company.”
The February 2020 car report highlights the many similarities between Houthi and Iranian drone and missile parts. Among the findings, parts found in Houthi drones and missiles were “identical” to those found in Iranian drones and missiles. Also, the Houthi Qasef-1 drones use a model V10 vertical gyroscope whose serial numbers were “close in proximity to an identical gyroscope found in an Iranian-made Abiabil-3.” Citing drone experts, the report says “such vertical gyroscopes have not been observed in any uavs [unmanned aerial vehicle] other than those manufactured by Iran” (emphasis added).
Clearly Iran is ultimately responsible for the Houthis’ ever improving military strength and capacity. This means Iran has deadly leverage over the critical Bab el-Mandeb and Red Sea. It means the mullahs in Tehran could ignite a global trade crisis at any moment.
Iran’s Red Sea Strategy
The National Interest wrote that the Bab el-Mandeb is the world’s most dangerous shipping lane. In 2016, roughly 4.8 million barrels of crude oil and other petroleum products passed through this strait per day. More than half of that trade sailed into the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe and North America. Think about the consequences of Iran shutting down this key maritime passage.
Trade vessels would have to be rerouted around the southern tip of Africa. This delay would increase the sailing time from the Persian Gulf to Rotterdam, one of Europe’s main shipping hubs, by 78 percent. It would triple the sailing time from the Persian Gulf to Italy, which imported 19.7 percent of its crude oil from Iraq in 2016. These delays would raise prices and restrict supply, causing severe problems for the global economy, especially Europe.
This is why Iran has supported the Houthi rebels in Yemen: Through the Houthi, Iran is gaining the power to threaten the Bab el-Mandeb and the Red Sea!
Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry has been observing and warning about this for many years. In April 2015, he wrote, “The Houthi takeover in Yemen proves that Iran is implementing a bold strategy to control the vital sea lane from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. We need to understand the gravity of this new situation in Yemen!”
Mr. Flurry identified Iran’s Red Sea strategy because he understands the prophecy in Daniel 11:40. This prophecy describes a clash in the end time between the “king of the north” and the “king of the south.” These verses forecast a clash between a German-led European superpower and an alliance of Islamist nations and organizations, led by Iran. This clash is precipitated by Iran and its proxies: “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him ….”
Verses 42-43 show that the king of the south controls territory around the Red Sea. Tehran’s influence in this region gives it the power to “push” the world around, and to “push” Europe, especially. “Now that Iran controls Yemen,” wrote Mr. Flurry, “it can virtually close or open this spigot on Middle East oil bound for Europe. And Europe is taking notice!”
Many nations are aware of Iran’s power and are clearly concerned. Several nations, such as China, France, Japan and the United States, have military bases in Djibouti, a small nation 30 kilometers across the strait from Yemen. Despite this presence, however, the Bible says that Iran will gain some form of control over the Red Sea. Think again about Iran’s drone boats and sea mines: This prophecy is being fulfilled right now!
When Iran pushes at Europe, Daniel 11:40 says, “the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow, as he passes through.” At some point, Europe, led by Germany, will respond with overpowering force.
Even now, Europe is beginning to respond to Tehran’s meddling in the Red Sea. On January 30, the first French frigate began patrolling the Persian Gulf as part of Europe’s new anti-Iran naval mission, supported by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. This is just the beginning. Expect Europe to become more involved in this region.
Europe and Iran are on a collision course. Soon, these two powers will clash in a major war—one that will expand to encompass the planet and end with the arrival of the Messiah.