Stop Iran Now - Via The Wall Street Journal - By
Benoit Faucon, Dov Lieber and Gordon Lubold
December 26, 2023
PICTURED: Newly recruited Houthi fighters chant slogans and don the Nazi-like salute during a gathering in the capital Sanaa. (File Photo: Mohammed Huwais/AFP). Their slogan , modeled on a motto from revolutionary Iran, is: "Allah is the Greatest, Death to America, Death to Israel, A Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam". In a curious and controversial move the Biden administration withdrew the designation of the Iran- sponsored Houthis as a terrorist organization - but according to sources is reevaluating that decision.
Iran’s paramilitary forces are providing real-time intelligence and weaponry, including drones and missiles, to Yemen’s Houthis that the rebels are using to target ships passing through the Red Sea, Western and regional security officials said.
Tracking information gathered by a Red Sea surveillance vessel controlled by Iran’s paramilitary forces is given to the Houthis, who have used it to attack commercial vessels passing through the Bab el-Mandeb strait in recent days, according to the officials.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon unveiled plans for a multinational naval force to protect merchant vessels in the Red Sea. Meanwhile, many of the world’s biggest shipping lines, oil producers and other cargo owners have started diverting vessels from the region, prompting a rise in oil prices and insurance rates.
Many vessels sailing in the strait have been switching off their radios to avoid being tracked online, but an Iranian vessel stationed in the Red Sea is enabling the Houthi drones and missiles to accurately target the ships, the officials said.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the Houthis said the group didn’t need to rely on Iran to help in its attacks. “It’s strange to attribute everything to Iran as if it were the world’s strongest power,” the spokesperson said. “We have intelligence facilities that have proven themselves over the years of aggression against us.”
The direct involvement by Iranian actors in the attacks raises the stakes for Israel and the U.S., which are eager to contain Tehran’s role in the region, and risks creating a new front in the conflict between Israel and its foes in the region, just as the U.S. is trying to stop it from escalating.
“The Houthis don’t have the radar technology to target the ships,” said a Western security official. “They need Iranian assistance. Without it, the missiles would just drop in the water.”
White House and Pentagon officials have demanded the Houthis cease attacks on commercial vessels and U.S. Navy ships. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have said privately they are looking at an offensive military response to the attacks.
Last week, the Houthis hit a Norwegian cargo vessel with an antiship cruise missile. The ship caught fire and was forced to sail to port after being damaged. None of the crew was injured.
On Friday, the White House declassified intelligence that it said showed the extent of the support Iran is providing to the Houthis for attacks in the Red Sea and on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. The intelligence release appeared to be an effort to lay the groundwork for potential military action against the Houthis.
The White House said the U.S. had found the Houthis rely on monitoring and tactical intelligence from the Iranians to target vessels, and had provided Iranian-designed drones and missiles the Houthis launched toward Israel and at least one vessel in the Red Sea.
“Iranian support to these Houthi operations remains critical,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.
The U.S. has previously said Iran was enabling the Houthi attacks on ships but hadn’t said how until now. Iran for years has supplied weapons to the rebels in their battle against Saudi-backed foes in Yemen.
While the Houthis have said the attacks are in retaliation for Israel’s war in Gaza, the ships they have attacked have little or in some cases no links to Israel.
Washington has told Israel to let the U.S. military respond to the Houthis instead of taking action that could expand its conflict with Hamas and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, U.S. and other government officials said.
U.S. officials have also said they wish to dissociate the attacks in the Red Sea from the conflict inside Gaza. Describing the Red Sea attacks as an international problem demanding a multilateral solution, the U.S. hopes to dissuade the Israelis from striking the Houthis and broadening their conflict with Hamas militants.
A senior Israeli official said the Iranian ship’s intelligence support for the Houthis shows that the West needs to pressure Tehran to halt its assistance, which is disrupting the global shipping trade. “Iran is giving them weapons, and Iran could stop it,” the Israeli official said. “We need to work to put pressure on Iran, so they will stop.”
In 2021, Israeli mines damaged an Iranian spy ship that had also been stationed in the Red Sea, and it was replaced by the vessel currently helping the Houthis, Western officials said.
Israel has also been angered by Houthi missile attacks targeting the southern port of Eilat, though they were intercepted by U.S. defenses.
The intelligence the U.S. declassified and released on Friday links Iran to the specific weaponry the Houthi militants used in recent attacks in the Red Sea and against Israel.