Pro-war foreign secretary David Cameron and President of Israel Isaac Herzog (Picture: Flickr/ Number 10)

The US and Britain have detonated a wider war in the Middle East and are threatening even more horrific imperialist slaughter. On Monday Tory defence ­secretary Grant Shapps said Britain was considering air strikes and other “direct action” against the Houthi group in Yemen.

This came after its attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea in response to Israel’s war on Gaza. Like the killers for the British Empire 150 years ago, Shapps said Britain would send gunboats to defend “freedom of navigation”.

Highlighting how a British ­warship shot down a suspected attack drone in the Red Sea in December, Shapps said, “We won’t hesitate to take further action.” Last Sunday the US Navy destroyed three Houthi boats, killing at least ten people as they attempted to board a container ship in the Red Sea. 

US helicopters from nearby ­warships opened fire on the small boats which they accused of ­attacking the Maersk Hangzhou container ship. The US launched an ­international naval operation in December to protect the profits of giant maritime firms which are running ships in the area.

The Houthis are taking action in the Bab el-Mandeb area between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. This narrow passage is the world’s third largest choke point for oil shipments. More than six million barrels of oil pass through it every day, mainly on their way to Europe. 

For an average ship, passing through Bab el-Mandeb and Suez takes nine days less than going around Africa. It is also cheaper—maritime experts estimate that the shorter route saves at least 15 percent on transport.

But the threats of imperialist war haven’t humbled the Houthis. Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, the leader of the group, has threatened to target US battleships in response to any attack against Yemen.  “We will not stand idly by if the Americans have a tendency to escalate and commit foolishness by ­targeting our country,” al-Houthi said in a speech last week.

Last November, the Houthi group announced that it would target any ship owned or operated by Israel in the Red Sea. It said it would continue to do so until Israel allows for food and fuel to be brought into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Al-Houthi accused Israel of ­committing “heinous crimes against the Palestinians” and “the occupation army continues the severe siege, starvation, and prevents medicines from reaching civilians.” He added the US plays an active role in Israel’s actions in Gaza as “supporters of Zionism”.

The Houthis are backed by Iran, which the US and Israel have stepped up their attacks against. Last week an Israeli air raid targeted Iranian military positions in Syria’s Aleppo. And Israel continues to attack Hezbollah positions in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, foreign ­secretary Lord David Cameron swans around the world seeking to be a spokesperson of the Western military, reportedly pushing for a “sustainable ceasefire”. Don’t be fooled—Cameron is the face of mass murder.

Who are the Houthis fighting against?

The Houthis are a group from Yemen’s Shia Muslim minority called the Zaidis. They take their name from the movement’s founder Hussein al-Houthi. The group was formed in the 1990s to combat the corruption of the then president Ali Abdullah Saleh. 

President Saleh, backed by Saudi Arabia’s military, tried to eliminate the Houthi rebels in 2003, but the Houthis repelled them both. The Houthis have conducted 24 attacks against international shipping since 19 November, according to US Central Command. 

After occupying the Yemeni capital Sana’a in January 2015 Houthi rebels forced out president Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who the West backed. A Saudi-led coalition has led to a brutal war in Yemen, armed by Britain and others.

By the start of 2022 the war had caused an estimated 377,000 deaths and displaced four million people, according to the United Nations. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) says, “Britain is one of Saudi Arabia’s leading arms suppliers, along with the US. It is also a major supplier of arms to the United Arab Emirates, another country in the coalition that is bombing Yemen.”

CAAT adds that British-made equipment used in Yemen includes Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, Paveway bombs and Brimstone and Stormshadow missiles. The published value of British weapons licensed for export to the Saudi-led coalition since the bombing began in March 2015 is £9.7 billion. 

That includes £8.2 billion to Saudi Arabia alone. But CAAT estimates that the real value of arms to Saudi Arabia is almost £27 billion. The increased Western aggression chimes with Israel’s plans. The Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said recently, “We are in a multi-front war. We are being attacked from seven fronts—Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], Iraq, Yemen and Iran

“This is the end of the era of limited conflicts. We operated for years under the assumption that limited conflicts could be managed, but that is a phenomenon that is disappearing. Today, there is a noticeable phenomenon of the convergence of the arenas.” A terrifying major war now looms—and it is the US and Britain that are driving it.

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