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15th June 2024 (10 Topics)

U.S. Navy's Conflict with Houthi Rebels in Yemen


For decades, the U.S. Navy prepared for potential conflicts with major global powers like the Soviet Union, Russia, and China. However, its current focus has shifted unexpectedly to combating Houthi rebels, an Iran-backed group based in Yemen. This conflict has become the most intense ongoing naval battle the Navy has faced since World War II.

Who are the Houthi Rebels?

  • The Houthis are an armed political and religious group which champions Yemen's Shia Muslim minority, the Zaidis.
  • They declare themselves to be part of the Iranian-led "axis of resistance"against Israel, the US and the wider West - along with armed groups such as Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.
  • At present, they are targeting Red Sea and adjoining Gulf of Aden.

How could Houthi attacks affect the global economy?

  • Disruption of Trade: The attacks have resulted in significant disruptions to shipping in the Red Sea directly affecting global trade flows, particularly those relying on the efficient passage through the Suez Canal.
  • Impact on Energy Transit: Approximately 12 percent of seaborne oil and 8 percent of liquefied natural gas (LNG) pass through the Suez Canal, making any disruption in the Red Sea a critical concern for global energy markets.
  • Alternative Shipping Routes: Due to the risks associated with the Red Sea route, some commercial ships have opted to circumnavigate the Horn of Africa However, this alternative route entails additional costs estimated at approximately USD 1 million in extra fuel expenses for a round trip.
  • Economic Costs: The shift away from the Red Sea route has financial implications beyond fuel costs. Insurance premiums for ships navigating through the Red Sea have surged nearly tenfold since the onset of Houthi attacks, reflecting heightened risks and uncertainties associated with this route.


Red Sea Route

  • Geographical Location: The Red Sea is located between northeastern Africa (mainly Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea) and the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia and Yemen).
  • It connects to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal to the north and the Indian Ocean via the Bab el-Mandeb strait to the south.
  • Dimensions: It is approximately 2,250 kilometers (1,400 miles) long, with a maximum width of about 355 kilometers (220 miles).
  • The sea's average depth is 490 meters (1,608 feet), with its deepest point reaching around 3,040 meters (9,970 feet) in the central Suakin Trough.
  • Strategic Importance: The Red Sea is a vital maritime route for international trade, linking Europe and Asia.
    • It serves as a key transit route for shipping between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, including the Suez Canal, which facilitates one of the shortest sea routes between Asia and Europe.

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