"Hands Off Yemen" rally in New York City

Pro-Palestinians in New York City join "Hands Off Yemen" rally outside of the United Nations mission of Yemen on East 51st Street in Midtown, Manhattan, on Friday, January 12, 2024.

(Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Democrat Applauded for (Not-So) 'Dumb Idea’ to End Houthi Attacks in Red Sea

"Stop the bombing of Gaza, then the attacks on commercial shipping will end," suggested Rep. Hank Johnson. "Why not try that approach?"

Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia is receiving praise for what he acknowledged some would call a "dumb idea," but to him—and many others—is the surest and most mutually beneficial way to stop the attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea by Houthi forces in Yemen while at the same time bringing an end to Israel's three-month attack on Gaza.

"I have what some may consider a dumb idea," Johnson tweeted Friday night, "but here it is: stop the bombing of Gaza, then the attacks on commercial shipping will end. Why not try that approach?"

Others chimed in to say it was a common-sense approach, not a stupid one. "That is not a dumb idea at all, Congressman!" declared Just Foreign Policy. "In fact, you are reflecting the view of the vast majority of the world."

Following U.S.-U.K. airstrikes on Houthis targets in Yemen early Friday morning—which members of Congress on both sides of the aisle denounced as illegal because they lacked congressional approval—critics warned it only risks escalating tensions in the Middle East further and puts the region on a path to wider war.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed Saturday it fired missiles on an additional radar site in Yemen, describing the strike as a "follow-on action."

The Houthis have been very clear that their attacks on cargo vessels and oil tankers in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the straight that connects the two known as the Bab el-Mandeb, are a direct response to Israel's "genocidal" assault on the people of Gaza.

On Friday, the Houthis' political committee repeated that message as it affirmed "the commitment of the Yemeni Republic to what was declared at the beginning of its naval operation to end the blockade, stop the aggression, end the genocidal war on Gaza, and allow the entry of food, medicine, fuel, and all means of life."

As Branko Marcetic wrote for Jacobin on Friday:

The ethnic cleansing and mass murder in Gaza could end, the Houthi attacks on international shipping could stop, the wider, catastrophic war that day by day gets closer to breaking out in the Middle East could be prevented.

All it would take is doing the one thing that president Joe Biden has refused to do, in the face of all political logic, common sense, and public pressure: support a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and use the enormous power and leverage Washington has over the tiny Middle Eastern country to make it stop its war on Gaza.

Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch and now visiting professor at Princeton, suggested that nearly tens years of Saudi bombardment—on pause since last year due to a fragile peace agreement—had not been able to displace the Houthis in Yemen but that the airstrikes and further Western provocations could rekindle that war as well as the extreme humanitarian crisis that came along with it.

"Better to get a ceasefire in Gaza to stop that humanitarian crisis," said Roth on Saturday.

In a statement on Friday, Johnson connected the U.S.-led bombing of Yemen with the ongoing violence in Gaza.

"As the U.S. and a group of allies bomb the Houthis for attacking commercial shipping lanes, the right-wing government of Bibi Netanyahu continues the incessant bombing of Gaza," said Johnson. "So far 23,00 people have been killed, 70% of whom are women and children. Untoward numbers have been maimed, with some being forced to undergo amputations and pregnant women reciving C-sections without anesthesia."

Citing the 2.2 million people in Gaza "being systematically starved to death," Johnson said the situation was both dangerous and untenable.

"With there being no place in Gaza safe from Israel's relentless and ongoing bombing campaign, the rampage threatens to ensare the U.S. in a regional war," he said. "I join others in calling for an immediate ceasefire throughout the region."

Confirming what many experts have said, the Houthis appeared undeterred by the first wave of airstrikes. As the Maritime Executivereported Friday, fresh Houthi attacks on vessels took place not long after:

The Houthi rebels resumed launching missiles and mounting their attacks only hours after the forces of the U.S. and UK struck at their capabilities. While ships are being warned to use caution and avoid the Bab el-Mandeb in the immediate aftermath of last night’s strikes, reports are coming in of an attack in the Gulf of Aden.

The UK Maritime Trade Organizations issued an alert of an attack and approach approximately 90 nautical miles southeast of Aden, Yemen. No details were provided on what type of vessel might have been involved, but the UKMTO said the ship is proceeding on its voyage without reporting any injuries or damage.

In New York City on Friday, the U.N. Security Council convened to discuss the violence in the Red Sea. The office of the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres used the occasion to call for de-escalation.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Guterres said the Secretary-General "reiterates that attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea area are not acceptable as they endanger the safety and security of global supply chains and have a negative impact on the economic and humanitarian situation worldwide."

Citing passage of a recent UNSC resolution officially condemning the Houthis attacks, the spokeperson also stressed that "all Member States defending their vessels from attacks to do so in accordance with international law, as stipulated in the Resolution."

The statement further called "upon all parties involved not to escalate even more the situation in the interest of peace and stability in the Red Sea and the wider region."

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