RAF Typhoon jets attack targets in US and British strikes on Yemen (Picture: Ministry of Defence on Twitter)

Britain and the US launched missile attacks on Yemen overnight on Thursday raising the terrible prospect of a widening war in the Middle East. It could be an opening towards an even more appalling confrontation with Iran.

Fighter jets and warships launched missiles at sites they said were being used by Yemen’s Houthi fighters to launch attacks against commercial shipping. The US air force says it struck “over 60 targets at 16 Iranian-backed Houthi militant locations”.

The British ministry of defence said four RAF Typhoon jets used guided bombs in ‘‘precision strikes” on targets chosen to “reduce the Houthis’ capability to violate international law”.

But the airstrikes have nothing to do with international law. They are to show the world that the West remains in charge of the Middle East, and that it will punish any country that steps out of line.

The move can only heighten the anger at imperialism that has spread across the region. That fury is primarily directed at Israel for its genocidal war in Gaza. But it also extends to Britain and the US because both provide Israel with arms, funding and political legitimacy.

News of the West’s attack provoked outrage, with even Middle East leaders close to the US voicing concern or disapproval.

Oman, a mediator in attempts to end Yemen’s long-running civil war, expressed its “worry” at the strikes on Houthi rebel military targets. The attacks, according to the Houthis, left five people dead.

The Gulf sultanate “can only condemn the use of military action by friendly countries” while Israel pursues war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said a foreign ministry spokesman. “Oman has warned several times about the risk of the extension of the conflict in the region due to the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian territories,” it said.

Kuwait’s foreign ministry also expressed “great concern” about the strikes. It echoed the view of Yemen’s powerful neighbour Saudi Arabia, which is trying to extricate itself from a decade-long fight with the Houthis.

Jordan added that the failure of the leading Western states to “restrain” Israel had allowed Israel to expose the security of the region to danger.

Those regimes fear the West’s move will heighten growing anger at leaders of Muslim countries that have stood back while Israel has massacred the Palestinians.

Calling the attacks on Yemen “barbaric”, the Houthis said on Friday that there was no justification for them. And they vowed to continue targeting ships heading towards Israel.

Houthis have attacked cargo vessels in the Red Sea as part of their support for the Palestinian resistance. In December and January, the group was able to mount assaults using helicopters, drones and ballistic missiles.

All major shipping companies have since the beginning of the year barred their vessels from using the Red Sea—and the vital Suez Canal in Egypt.

Yahya Saree, the Houthi’s military spokesperson, warned, “The US and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression against our Yemeni people. And it will not go unanswered and unpunished.”

Resistance groups in the region also pledged to redouble their efforts against imperialism. In a statement Hezbollah in Lebanon said, “The US aggression confirms once again that the US is a full partner in the tragedies and massacres committed by the Zionist enemy in Gaza and in the region.

“It is the one that continues to support the machine of killing and destruction, and to cover up its aggression and crime and the attacks on everyone who stands by the oppressed Palestinian people throughout the region.”

One unintended consequence of the West’s bombing is that it has united people in Yemen, even those that were on the opposite side of the long civil war.

Most Yemenis are in full support of the Palestinians and therefore back the Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping. 

The Al Jazeera news website reports, “The group’s actions in the Red Sea, along with its messaging about supporting the people of Gaza, have been immensely popular among Yemenis.” 

The attacks have “bolstered recruitment and allowed it to mobilise massive rallies in support of the Palestinian people.”

Abdulghani al-Iryani, a senior researcher with the Sanaa Center, said, “The Houthis actually won that confrontation the day they started it.”

In Britain, prime minister Rishi Sunak claimed the strikes were “self-defence”, despite no British-flagged vessels having been attacked so far. 

But he let slip that his real aims were political and economic, saying Britain must “always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade”. And Labour leader Keir Starmer was quick to give the attack his blessing.

Asked if the government had his party’s support, he told BBC Radio 5 Live this morning, “Yes it does. The government briefed me in a Cobra secure briefing last night about the action that was going to be taken that now has been taken.” 

But Labour’s slavish support for imperialism will not sway the millions of people in Britain. They have already shown their opposition to the West’s policies by taking to the streets in support of Palestine.

This Saturday is a vital opportunity to stand up once again for those being bombarded in Gaza—and also those now under the imperialist cosh in Yemen.

March for Palestine and against imperialism. Saturday 13 January, 12 noon, Bank Junction, London EC3V 3LA

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