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Will the US Task Force Undo Years of Neglecting the Houthi Threat?

FILE PHOTO: Houthi military helicopter flies over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released November 20, 2023. Photo: Houthi Military Media/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

JNS.orgAs the U.S.-led naval task force in the Red Sea operates defensively against the threat posed by the Houthis in Yemen, the wider question of whether Washington will reverse years of neglect and downplaying of the Iran-backed Houthi threat remains open.

It remains unclear whether the increased tensions in the region will develop into conflict, or whether Washington will make due with minimal defensive measures.

Iran and its Houthi proxy are likely gambling on wearing out Washington’s patience and blockading shipping to Israel indefinitely, creating a threat that Israel cannot accept.

And if they succeed, Tehran likely has its sights set on the Persian Gulf, experts warn.

In recent days, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian spoke with his British counterpart, David Cameron, to discuss regional developments. Cameron told Abdollahian that Iran bore responsibility for preventing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, the Meir Amit Intelligence Terrorism Information Center reported, citing Iranian media.

Abdollahian said Iran would respond forcefully to any aggression by the “Zionist entity” and that stopping a “Zionist ship in the Red Sea” could not be seen as a threat to the security of the shipping routes while Israel was allowed to carry out “massacres of women and children” and ignite the region, according to the report.

In a recent sign of ongoing Iran-Houthi coordination, on Dec. 31 Iranian state media reported that Ali-Akbar Ahmadian, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council—the main Iranian military decision-making body—met with the Houthi spokesman and chief negotiator Mohammad Abdeslam.

Ahmadian praised the Houthis’ recent actions, which included a spate of attacks on Red Sea commercial shipping and the firing of missiles and UAVs at Eilat, most of which have been intercepted by American, Israeli, Egyptian and Saudi air defenses.

On that same day, Reuters reported that at least 10 Houthis were killed and two wounded in an attack carried out by American forces on four Houthi boats trying to take control of a Danish ship in the Red Sea.

In response, Yahya Saria, spokesman for the Houthi armed forces, said the United States was responsible for the “crime” and its consequences. He said the American military operation in the Red Sea was designed to protect Israeli ships but would not prevent Yemen from “fulfilling its duty to support the Palestinians.”

He reiterated that the Houthi forces would continue to prevent the passage of Israeli ships or ships sailing towards Israeli ports—thereby confirming the Houthi—Iranian strategy of blockading Israel’s Red Sea shipping lanes, posing a severe threat to its economy, as well as to the wider global economy.

Abdeslam Hajaf, a member of the Houthis’ Shura Council and Defense and Security Committee, claimed that the American attack was a “declaration of war.”

Britain’s Times newspaper, meanwhile, reported that Britain and the United States are preparing to carry out a series of attacks against the Houthis, and may be joined by another European country.

In a sign of the orchestrated nature of the Houthi actions as part of the Iranian radical terror axis, the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad issued an announcement on Dec. 31 condemning the American action against Houthi forces, and called on Arab and Islamic nations to “confront the American aggression against Yemen by all possible means.”

Iran’s Alborz warship has entered the Red Sea after passing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, an Iranian news agency reported on Jan. 1. In its report, Tasnim, which is said to be close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), did not specify the details of the Alborz’s mission but linked the move to Israel’s war against Hamas.

“Following rising tensions in the Gaza war, there has been an acceleration in developments in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait,” it said.

IDF Col. (res.) Shaul Shay, a lecturer at Reichman University in Herzliya and a senior research associate at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, noted that the strong connection between Iran and the Houthis goes back to 2014, when the Houthis conquered the Yemenite capital of Sana’a, and from there began expanding to other parts of the country, almost seizing Aden as well.

“Then the Saudis established their coalition and entered the battle to push back the Houthis and save the legitimate government. What happened is that at this stage of the war, in fact, the main advantage of the Saudis, of the coalition was, in air power, and they really tried to use it to the best of their ability. And this created two processes that in my opinion affect what we are at today,” said Shay, who served as deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council from 2007 to 2009.

The first is that Iran entered the war on the side of the Houthis in a very distinct manner, despite its many denials. In practice, said Shay, Iran began providing the Houthis with a strategic answer to Saudi air superiority, such as UAVs, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles.

“From the Iranian perspective, this quickly became a proxy war, which was about regional hegemony in the Middle East. Iran against the Saudi axis,” said Shay.

The second process involved the Western reaction. Unfortunately, said Shay, at this stage, the United States and Western Europe began to blame Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and its many civilian casualties, while failing to recognize that this was a strategic battle for the fate of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Houthis began bombarding Saudi cities and military sites with missiles and UAVs. In 2019, strikes targeted Saudi oil fields at Abqaiq and Khurais, which stopped half of Saudi oil exports at the time and which according to a U.S. investigation originated from Iran directly, despite Houthi claims of responsibility.

In order to avoid repeating the same mistake now, Shay argued, the U.S. task force in the Red Sea will need to go further than merely providing a protective envelope against missiles and sea mines targeting shipping.

“If this is how it ends, the Iranians and Houthis will win the war. The scenario of an Iranian victory includes the Houthis continuing to threaten the ships,” Shay added.

This would encourage Iran to replicate what it is doing in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz, through which pass most oil exports from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

“They will close it when they want to, and through the Houthis, they control the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. This has huge strategic implications, also economically, on the entire global economy,” said Shay. “The Bab el-Mandeb issue should have been solved a few years ago. But if we’ve come this far, this is not an Israeli problem. It is about strategic control over a critical waterway via militias.”

As of this writing, Shay noted that not only are the Iranians not being punished for activating the Houthis, but neither are the Houthis themselves.

“This situation is, at least in my view, intolerable,” he said.

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British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel

Leaders of the British Columbia Jewish community have reacted with dismay to the decision by David Eby, the province’s premier, to remove Selina Robinson from her position as minister of post-secondary education and future skills on Feb. 5 due to remarks she made the previous week during an online discussion. While speaking on a panel […]

The post British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War

A damaged building lies in ruins, following an infiltration by Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel at a kibbutz in Kfar Aza, Israel, Nov. 8, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Israelis from the Gaza Envelope are calling on the government to approve their return home, roughly four months since the war’s outbreak on October 7.

The head of the Scot Negev Regional Council, Tamir Idan, said outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, “We demand a clear statement from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister that it is safe to return to the area. Until then we are not moving from here.”

The heads of the other regional councils in the Gaza area joined Idan outside the Prime Minister’s office, where they slept last night in protest.

The regional leaders say that members of the Gaza border towns should be allowed to return to the areas if they wish, rather than being forced to live in hotels. An internal plan is set to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the near future.

The heads claim it is safe to return home, and are demanding that the government sign off on such a statement so residents can do so. Their protest comes as the government extended the funds allocated for their stay at hotels until July.

Following the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists, when they stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240, tens of thousands of Israelis from the area were uprooted from their homes and placed in hotels in the Jerusalem area, Eilat, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea region. Since then, they have been living there full time, with makeshift schools set up for children and activities to keep everyone occupied. The move has also led local businesses to be completely shuttered.

Some Israelis have already moved back to their towns, which is technically allowed but under their own risk — rockets still fly near daily from Gaza and the IDF is operating within the Gaza Strip, which is minutes away from certain border towns.

The plan presented by the regional heads, they say, would mean that the towns are technically safe to return to, and therefore the risk falls under the government and the military.

This is as tens of thousands of Israelis from northern towns also remain out of their homes, with no current timeline for return due to the constant threat of Hezbollah missiles and the potential the war extends to the north.

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Australian Politician Says ‘Jewish Lobby’ Uses ‘Tentacles’ to ‘Influence Power’

Australian Greens MP Jenny Leong speaks at a Palestine Justice Movement event in Australia on Sunday, February 4, 2024. Source: Twitter/X

Video of a left-wing Australian politician discussing how “the Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby” are using their “tentacles” to “influence power” went viral on Tuesday, sparking backlash from the Australian Jewish community.

Jenny Leong, an Australia Greens member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, spoke on a panel for the Palestine Justice Movement in December to promote boycotting Israel.

“The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups,” Leong said during the panel. “They rock up and they’re part of the campaign,” and “they offer solidarity.” 

She continued: “They [the Jewish and Zionist lobby] rock up to every community meeting and event to offer that connection because their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power and I think that we need to call that out and expose that.”

Stop what you’re doing and listen to the despicable remarks of @Greens MP @jennyleong , in which she accuses Jews of having “tentacles” which they use to try and influence power.

Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes…

— NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (@NSWJBD) February 6, 2024

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which is the representative of Jews who live in New South Wales, called the remarks “despicable,” adding that “Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes to accuse Jews of covertly manipulating civic life. She has outrageously suggested that there is a sinister or evil purpose associated with Jews undertaking the most normal of activities – interacting with other Australians.”

Josh Burns, a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives, said her comments were “a direct attack on Jewish people in Australia” and that “she should unreservedly apologize.” He also called on the Australian Greens to “take responsibility and demonstrate that Jewish people in Australia are safe and respected by their Party.”

The right-leaning Australian Jewish Association wrote on X that “Every credible political party must put the Greens last. Every non-racist fair minded person must put the Greens last.”

In response to the criticism, Leong apologized for specifically using the word “tentacles,” but not for her message. She said: “Speaking on a panel during a two-hour-long event last year, I acknowledge that I used a word at one point that was an inappropriate descriptor for the influence of groups backing Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks in Gaza and the ongoing occupation – I apologise that this has caused offence.” 

She continued: “It is incredibly telling that after a conversation where myself and other speakers made countless mentions of the genocidal attacks and occupation occurring in Gaza right now, that two months later more focus isn’t being put on the deaths of over 26,000 people, many of them children.”

Her comments and apology come amid increasing concern over antisemitism on the far-left, which has celebrated violent resistance against Israel since October 7, when Hamas invaded the country, killed 1,200 people, and kidnapped more than 240 more.

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