Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis

Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, likely because of a yearslong United Nations arms embargo on the rebels. (AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis

Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis
  • Abdul Malik Al-Houthi said the militia will start hitting ships heading toward the Cape of Good Hope in Africa’s southern tip

DUBAI, UAE: Yemen’s Houthis claim to have a new, hypersonic missile in their arsenal, Russia’s state media reported Thursday, potentially raising the stakes in their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and surrounding waterways against the backdrop of Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The report by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited an unidentified official but provided no evidence for the claim. It comes as Moscow maintains an aggressively counter-Western foreign policy amid its grinding war on Ukraine.
However, the Houthis have for weeks hinted about “surprises” they plan for the battles at sea to counter the United States and its allies, which have so far been able to down any missile or bomb-carrying drone that comes near their warships in Mideast waters.
On Thursday, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, the Houthis’ secretive supreme leader, said the militia will start hitting ships heading toward the Cape of Good Hope in Africa’s southern tip. Until now, the militia has largely struck ships heading into the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal, and such an escalation would target the longer, alternative route used by some vessels. It remains unclear how they would carry any possible assault out.
Meanwhile, Iran and the US reportedly held indirect talks in Oman, the first in months amid their long-simmering tensions over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program and attacks by its proxies.
Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, claims to have a hypersonic missile and has widely armed the militia with the missiles it now uses. Adding a hypersonic missile to their arsenal could pose a more formidable challenge to the air defense systems employed by America and its allies, including Israel.
“The group’s missile forces have successfully tested a missile that is capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 8 and runs on solid fuel,” a military official close to the Houthis said, according to the RIA report. The Houthis “intend to begin manufacturing it for use during attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as well as against targets in Israel.”
Mach 8 is eight times the speed of sound.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds higher than Mach 5, could pose crucial challenges to missile defense systems because of their speed and maneuverability.
Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory in which anti-missile systems like the US-made Patriot can anticipate their path and intercept them. The more irregular the missile’s flight path, such as a hypersonic missile with the ability to change directions, the more difficult it becomes to intercept.
China is believed to be pursuing the weapons, as is America. Russia claims it has already used them.
In Yemen, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi boasted that his fighters “continue to expand the effectiveness and scope of our operations to areas and locations the enemy never expects.” He said they would prevent ships “connected to the Israeli enemy even crossing the Indian Ocean ... heading toward the Cape of Good Hope.”
The Houthis have attacked ships since November, saying they want to force Israel to end its offensive in Gaza, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. The ships targeted by the Houthis, however, have increasingly had little or no connection to Israel, the US or other nations involved in the war. The militia has also fired missiles toward Israel, though they have largely fallen short or been intercepted.
The Houthis don’t have a navy, nor weapons reaching into the far distances of the Indian Ocean, making their Cape of Good Hope threat difficult. However, Iran is suspected of targeting Israeli-linked vessels previously in the Indian Ocean. The Houthis have claimed attacks assessed to have been carried out by Iran in the past, such as the 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia that temporarily halved its oil production.
After seizing Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014, the Houthis ransacked government arsenals, which held Soviet-era Scud missiles and other arms.
As the Saudi-led coalition entered Yemen’s conflict on behalf of its exiled government in 2015, the Houthis’ arsenal was increasingly targeted. Soon — and despite Yemen having no indigenous missile manufacturing infrastructure — newer missiles made their way into militia’s hands.
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, likely because of a yearslong United Nations arms embargo on the militia. However, the US and its allies have seized multiple arms shipments bound for the rebels in Mideast waters. Weapons experts as well have tied Houthi arms seized on the battlefield back to Iran.
Iran also now claims to have a hypersonic weapon. In June, Iran unveiled its Fattah, or “Conqueror” in Farsi, missile, which it described as being a hypersonic. It described another as being in development.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Asked about the hypersonic claim, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said: “We have no indication that they even have that capability.”
Israel’s military declined to comment.
Also Thursday, The Financial Times reported that the US and Iran held indirect talks in Oman in January that America hoped would curtail the Red Sea attacks. The last known round of such talks had come last May.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency indirectly acknowledged the talks but insisted they were “merely limited to negotiations on lifting anti-Iran sanctions.”
The US State Department did not deny the January talks took place in a statement to The Associated Press, saying: “We have many channels for passing messages to Iran.”
“Since Oct. 7, all of (the communications) have been focused on raising the full range of threats emanating from Iran and the need for Iran to cease its across-the-board escalation,” it added.
The assaults on shipping have raised the profile of the Houthis, whose Zaydi people ruled a 1,000-year kingdom in Yemen up until 1962. Adding a new weapon increases that cachet and puts more pressure on Israel after a ceasefire deal failed to take hold in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Earlier in March, a Houthi missile struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, killing three of its crew members and forcing survivors to abandon the vessel. It marked the first fatal attack by the Houthis on shipping.
Other recent Houthi actions include an attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertilizer, the Rubymar, which later sank after drifting for several days.
A new suspected Houthi attack targeted a ship in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, but missed the vessel and caused no damage, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said. A later attack similarly missed a vessel in the Red Sea off Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, the center said early Friday.
Fabian Hinz, a missile expert and research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Iran transferred a new, hypersonic weapon to the Houthis. However, the question is how maneuverable such a weapon would be at hypersonic speeds and whether it could hit moving targets, like ships in the Red Sea.
“I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that the Houthis have some system that has some maneuvering capability to some extent,” Hinz said. “It is also possible for the Iranians to transfer new stuff for the Houthis to test it.”


Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says
Updated 14 sec ago
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Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says
  • African Union official praises Cairo during talks in Ghana for its pivotal role in efforts to enhance regional security and stability
  • Abdelatty emphasized the need to support the Somali government’s efforts to enhance security and stability

CAIRO: Egypt earned praise during talks on Monday in Accra, Ghana, for the pivotal role it plays in efforts to enhance security and stability on the African continent.

Bankole Adeoye, the African Union’s commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, said he was keen to continue to coordinate with Cairo on all priority issues related to the bloc.

It came as he held talks with Badr Abdelatty, Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, emigration and Egyptian expatriates, on the sidelines of the sixth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities.

They discussed the latest political and security developments in the crisis in Sudan and agreed on the need to unite the country’s civil political forces, preserve national unity and institutions, and coordinate regional and international mediation.

Abdelatty said Egypt was aware of the seriousness of the situation and eager to work with all partners and mechanisms to resolve the crisis swiftly. He stressed the importance of fully involving Sudan in talks about ways to resolve the situation, to preserve “our Sudanese brothers’ ownership of these solutions and proposals.”

The minister welcomed consultations and coordination with the African Union’s commissioner on peace and security in Africa. He said Egypt remains committed to support of the organization and its agencies, and to participation in its Peace and Security Council, in pursuit of peace and stability.

Abdelatty emphasized the need for increased consultation and coordination between member states and the union’s agencies in response to escalating security challenges on the continent, the expanding scope of conflicts and the associated human suffering.

He also outlined Egypt’s agenda and planned activities for its chairmanship of the Peace and Security Council in October. He said its plans prioritize the operationalization of the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, an effort that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has led within the union to support countries facing multiple crises.

Egypt welcomed the approval by the Peace and Security Council of a request from the Somali government to extend the time frame for the third phase of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, Abdelatty said. He highlighted plans for the deployment of a new mission in the country when the current one expires, and emphasized the need to support the Somali government’s efforts to enhance security and stability.

Adeoye and Abdelatty also discussed other issues of mutual concern, including the Great Lakes issue, the Renaissance Dam, security challenges in the Red Sea, and the situation in the Horn of Africa.


Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says
Updated 9 min 24 sec ago
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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says
  • Vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61NM southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr

DUBAI: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have intercepted a Togo-flagged, UAE-managed products tanker carrying 1,500 tons of marine gas oil, British security firm Ambrey said on Monday.
The vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for UAE’s Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61 nautical miles southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr, Ambrey said.
Ambrey added that the incident is unlikely to be politically motivated and is not assessed as a ‘war’ event.
The interception was likely a counter-smuggling operation by the IRGC, as the vessel’s “trading behavior was consistent with previous IRGC target profile,” Ambrey said.
Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the plunge in the value of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling to neighboring countries.
No further information was provided regarding the fate of the vessel.


UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
Updated 22 July 2024
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UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
  • “Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said
  • Authorities in Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the border with Syria

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities seized record quantities of the potent stimulant captagon last year, at an estimated value of up to $144 million, with the country increasingly a critical drug conduit, a UN report said Monday.
“Iraq has been experiencing a dramatic surge in drug trafficking and consumption for the past five years,” according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report.
In 2023 alone, authorities “seized a record-high 24 million captagon tablets,” the equivalent of over 4.1 tons, with an estimated “retail value” of between $84 million and $144 million, it said.
“Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said, adding that it is “becoming a critical juncture in the complex trafficking dynamics observed in the Near and Middle East region.”
Captagon seizures in Iraq “reportedly tripled between 2022 and 2023, and overall amounts seized in 2023 are 34 times higher than in 2019.”
An amphetamine derived from a once-legal treatment for narcolepsy and attention disorder, captagon today is trafficked through several Middle Eastern countries, with Syria the main country of origin.
Authorities in conflict-scarred Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the porous 600-kilometer (370-mile) border with war-torn Syria.
According to UNODC, 82 percent of the captagon seized in the region between 2019 and 2023 originated in Syria, followed by neighboring Lebanon, at 17 percent.
Iraq faces an explosion in domestic drug use, with the repeated crises that have gripped the conflict-ridden country of 43 million people driving up usage.
During an anti-drug conference attended by regional officials, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani called for regional cooperation.
“Coordinating and cooperating to pursue and dismantle drug gangs will serve regional and international security,” he said, adding that “Iraq is open to all cooperation” to fight “cross-border crime.”
“We will support any effort aiming to eliminate drug hubs, manufacturing stations, and cutting off their supply chains.”


UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s
Updated 22 July 2024
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UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s
  • UN Special rapporteur says the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes

GENEVA: A United Nations expert called Monday for an international investigation into a range of “atrocity crimes” committed in Iran in connection with a purge of dissidents in the 1980s.
“There should be no impunity for such gross human rights violations, regardless of when they were committed,” said Javaid Rehman, the UN’s independent special rapporteur on the rights situation in Iran, insisting that “the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes against humanity and genocide.”


Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza

Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza
Updated 22 July 2024
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Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza

Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza
  • The forum did not provide any information on how they had died

JERUSALEM: Israeli campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum announced on Monday that two captives held by Hamas in Gaza had died.
The deaths of Yagev Buchshtab, 35, and Alex Dancyg, 76, who were abducted during the October 7 attack by Hamas, are a “stark reminder of the urgency” to bring the hostages home, the forum said in a statement.
It did not provide any information on how they had died.
“Their bodies are being held by the Hamas terror organization,” the Israeli military said in a separate statement.
“The circumstances of their death in Hamas captivity are being examined by all the professional authorities.”
Buchshtab was abducted from his home in Kibbutz Nirim along with his wife Rimon Buchshtab-Kirsht, who was released after 50 days in captivity, the forum said.
Dancyg, who was born to Holocaust survivors, worked at Yad Vashem, the International Holocaust Remembrance Institute, and trained thousands of guides there, it added.
Hostages who were held captive with him reported that Dancyg spent his time in captivity giving history lectures to fellow captives, the forum said.
“Yagev and Alex were taken alive and should have returned alive to their families and to their country,” the forum said.
“Their death in captivity is a tragic reflection of the consequences of foot-dragging in negotiations,” it said referring to ceasefire talks that have dragged on for months.
During the October 7 attack, Hamas militants seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 44 the Israeli military and officials say are dead.
The attack by Hamas resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 39,006 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.