JEDDAH: Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen were accused on Thursday of threatening the world’s electricity supplies after they attacked two oil tankers in a crucial Red Sea shipping lane.
Saudi Arabia suspended oil shipments through the Bab Al-Mandeb strait after the missile attacks, in which one tanker — the Arsan, operated by the Saudi shipping company Bahri — suffered minor damage.
The Houthis have threatened before to block the strait, and said on Thursday they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets. Iran has also threatened to block another strategic shipping route, the Strait of Hormuz.
The protection of Red Sea shipping is one of the aims of the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government. The rest of the world must now be alert to the threat posed by Iran and its Houthi proxies, analysts told Arab News.
“Saudi Arabia cannot put the lives of its men and material in danger. It is too risky in Bab Al-Mandeb, as evident from the Houthi attacks,” said Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh.
“Had the attacks succeeded, it would have been catastrophic. The world, especially the European nations, must step up to the plate and play their part in neutralizing the threat from Iran and the Houthis.
“All this while Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have been fighting this scourge of terrorism and blackmail with little or no help from the Europeans. This is not just our fight. These militias, who are armed to teeth by Iran, pose a threat not just to us but to the entire global economy.
“Iran has repeatedly threatened that it will attack oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. And what has been the response from Europe? Criticism of the Saudi efforts and more pandering and cajoling of Tehran. Well, this cannot go on. They need to decide, and fast, what they want — oil to keep their economies running, or ties with Iran. Now is the time for them to take a stand.”
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, echoed that view.
“Disrupting the freedom of movement of oil shipments and threatening the sanctity of global energy markets will be viewed by the international community as a red line,” he said.
“Targeting international shipping through the Bab Al-Mandeb really highlights the strategic threat to regional stability posed by Houthi militants and their missile arsenal.”