Houthis hijack Israel-linked vessel in Red Sea

A screengrab captured from video footage shows Yemen's Houthi fighters taking over an Israel-linked vessel in the Red Sea on November 20, 2023.

(Photo: Houthi Movement via Getty Images)

Biden Urged to Reject Military Attack on Yemen as Red Sea Tensions Soar

"A full-blown open-ended regional war would be horrific and undoubtedly entail significant casualties to U.S. forces and civilian populations across the region," anti-war groups write in a new letter.

Dozens of anti-war organizations on Friday urged U.S. President Joe Biden to rule out any military escalation in Yemen as tensions in the Red Sea continue to rise following a series of Houthi attacks on shipping vessels.

"While these attacks are concerning, expanding the war into Yemen will not resolve them and instead may dramatically worsen the threats to commercial shipping both in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and other regional waterways," the 31 advocacy groups wrote in a letter to Biden, whose administration has reportedly been "actively weighing options to strike back at Houthis in Yemen."

The groups added that "with the horrific civilian toll in Gaza, the entire region is on a knife's edge," and warned a U.S. attack on Yemen "would undoubtedly upend this tentative balance and invite more direct attacks on U.S. forces and interests throughout the region."

"A full-blown open-ended regional war would be horrific and undoubtedly entail significant casualties to U.S. forces and civilian populations across the region, adding to the horror being inflicted in Palestine," they added. "It would not serve Israel's security, either, as it would entail a dramatic escalation of the cross-border conflict with Lebanon."

The Houthis have characterized their attacks on ships in the Red Sea as a show of opposition to Israel's U.S.-backed assault on Gaza.

"If Gaza does not receive the food and medicine it needs, all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces," a Houthi spokesperson said in a statement earlier this month.

In response to the Red Sea attacks, the U.S. formed a multinational naval coalition tasked with protecting commercial shipping. Since October, the U.S. has shot down dozens of Houthi drones and missiles in the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is reportedly considering lifting its ban on offensive arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is currently engaged in peace talks with Yemen—a country that has been ravaged by years of U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing.

But with tensions soaring in the Red Sea, the negotiations are becoming increasingly fragile. The Biden administration is currently facing calls from Republican lawmakers and pro-Israel groups to redesignate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), a move that would potentially derail the peace talks.

"U.S. officials acknowledge that an FTO designation would block key aspects of that agreement, including the desperately-needed payment of civil servants and the long-overdue lifting of the blockade on Yemen's air and sea ports," the anti-war groups noted in their Friday letter to Biden. "Reinstating these sanctions and blocking a peace agreement would not only violate your commitments to promote humanitarian relief and seek an end to the war in Yemen, but would also further damage U.S. credibility and leadership in the region and around the world."

Politico reported last week that the Pentagon has "moved the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group from the Persian Gulf into the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen, to support a potential U.S. response" to the Houthi attacks.

Hassan El-Tayyab, legislative director for Middle East policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said Friday that "with the Middle East on fire over Gaza, there is an urgent need for multilateral diplomacy to address root causes of violence."

"More war is not, and has never been, the answer," said El-Tayyab. "President Biden must reject calls to launch unauthorized strikes and impose more sanctions on the Houthis, which would only deepen Yemen's humanitarian crisis. Instead, his administration must prioritize peace talks to achieve an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and promote de-escalation in Yemen and beyond."

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