To Stop the Houthis, Bring the Fight to Them—and to Iran

If Hizballah were to attack Cyprus, it would be part of a general effort to bring the war to the eastern Mediterranean, which would be coordinated with the maritime front already opened by its Houthi allies in the Red Sea. Yesterday the Houthis appear to have attacked a commercial vessel much further from the shore than they have previously managed to. The same group sank a ship and killed a British mariner last week. James Stavridis, a retired U.S. admiral and the former supreme commander of NATO, chides the West for its “anemic, indecisive, and mostly defensive” response. Drawing on his extensive experience fighting pirates, Stavridis suggests a firmer approach:

What we learned was that to defeat pirates operating from bases ashore you need to go ashore and neutralize the attacks before they successfully get out to sea. Once the pirates or their weapons—missiles, drones, unmanned high-speed boats—are in the open seaway, the challenges multiply. When we began to strike the pirate bases ashore, capture or kill the pirates, and destroy their equipment, the threat gradually reduced. While the Houthis are far better trained, equipped, and organized thanks to their masters in Tehran, the same principle applies.

Stavridis explains what applying this strategy to the Houthis would entail, and then adds that

a campaign plan against the Houthis must include severing their supply chain back to Iran. This is challenging but not impossible. Clearly, Iran is providing not only intelligence but also hardware, including components for drones, ballistic missiles, and unmanned speed craft. . . . This may require striking Iranian assets directly, to include their intelligence-gathering ships in the Red Sea and North Arabian Sea; offshore Iranian intelligence-gathering platforms outside the Arabian Gulf; [and] Iranian logistic vessels moving weapons and components to Yemen.

Some may find direct strikes against Iranian sovereign assets too provocative. I’d invite anyone looking at the situation to reflect on the direct attacks thus far—now numbering in the dozens—of ballistic missiles and drones shot down (fortunately) by U.S. warships. If one of those ballistic missiles were to get through and strike a U.S. destroyer with a tightly packed crew of 350 sailors, we would be very close to a war with Iran. Better to send a strong signal now than to have to react with overwhelming firepower against Tehran after U.S. casualties.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Houthis, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security