Iran’s Latest Escalation in Yemen Could Drive Up Gas Prices in the U.S.

January 12, 2022 | Benny Avni
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On January 3—the anniversary of the American drone strike that killed the Islamic Republic’s terror mastermind Qassem Suleimani—Yemeni Houthi rebels seized an Emirati ship, the Rwabee. The Houthis are but one of many guerrilla outfits that General Suleimani built up, armed, trained, and integrated into Tehran’s strategy for increasing its influence throughout the Middle East at gunpoint. Benny Avni writes:

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said Saturday that Yemen’s largest port, Hodeidah, controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, is now a military base.

Meanwhile, turning Yemen’s Houthi militia into a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia was one of Suleimani’s achievements in exporting the Iranian revolution to the region. The January 3 seizure of the Rwabee marks a major turning point in the long, cruel, and deadly Yemen civil war. “They’ve never done anything like that before,” says Jamal Benomar, who served as the United Nations representative in Yemen between 2011 and 2015.

Yemen is situated at the southernmost entrance to the Red Sea, where a 16-mile-wide strait, Bab el-Mandeb (“Gate of Tears”), connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, shortening shipping routes to Europe and America from Asia and Africa. Through the Red Sea’s northern point, the Suez Canal, goods have sailed freely for decades, making it one of the world’s busiest maritime lanes. Crucially, tankers carry some 3.3 million barrels of oil daily along Yemen’s coast on the way to Europe and America from the Gulf.

Last summer Iran was suspected of hijacking an Emirati-owned tanker in the Gulf of Oman. Now, with the Houthis’ seizure of the Rwabee, Iran signals it could extend to Yemen such efforts at controlling and manipulating global oil prices.

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