Opinion: Red Sea Attacks Put Biden’s Weakness on Full Display

The Biden administration, facing dismal public approval polls ahead of the ’24 elections, faces growing disfavor regarding its failed policies to appease Iran as Tehran funds Yemeni-based Houthi rebel assaults on international shipping in the Red Sea as well as drone and Hezbollah missile attacks on Syrian and Iraqi bases, along with Hamas’ brutal atrocities in Israel.

While much recent press attention in the United States has been directed to security threats in the Middle East posed by Hezbollah and Hamas proxies, the Yemeni Houthis pose broader dangers through crucial global commerce interference.

As was reported by the Wall Street Journal, Houthis, who are well-armed, might also represent an even more potent menace than other Iran proxies because they are the only ones possessing Iran radar-guided and medium-range ballistic missile capabilities to target ships.

Around 12% of the world’s trade by sea occurs via the Red Sea, with conflict disruptions that force shipping companies to delay deliveries from Europe and Asia by sailing around South Africa instead of routing through the Suez Canal.

Consequently, several of the world’s biggest oil producers, shipping lines, and other cargo owners diverge vessels from the region, resulting in hikes in supply chain costs and insurance rates.

Although the Red Sea shipping attacks were initially represented as being retaliation for the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the vessels typically targeted have little to no links to Israel at all. 

Included in those attacks is an attack on a tanker loaded with Russian crude oil pumped by the Kremlin-linked Rosneft — the Sai Baba — destined for an Indian refinery.

According to the Pentagon, over 100 ballistic missile and drone attacks have so far targeted at least 15 merchant vessels that are associated with over 35 different nations, causing CGM Group, BP, and Hapag-Lloyd, as well as other major firms, to stop sending ships through the Red Sea. 

According to Pentagon reports, the merchant crew of 25 who were taken hostage on November 19 is still being “unjustly detained in Yemen.”

The aggressively brazen occurrences supported by Iran happened despite the presence of the Eisenhower strike group in the Gulf of Aden and the U.S. Ford carrier strike group in the eastern Mediterranean.

Hostile actions like these would not be possible without tactical intelligence and monitoring assistance from Iran, including tracking information gathered by a Red Sea surveillance vessel that is controlled by a branch of Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Republic Guard Corps, its Quds Force, to attack ships that are passing through the Bab el-Mandeb straight.

Iran is also known to have provided missiles and drones Houthis have used to launch toward at least one Red Sea vessel and Israel.

Information that has recently been declassified by U.S. intelligence states that on October 19, the Houthis launched 29 Iran-designed drones from Yemen and a minimum of three land-attack cruise missiles, with another November 27 attack on a commercial tanker using the same type of missiles.

We should remember this is the same Houthi faction former President Donald Trump designated a terrorist organization, a distinction President Joe Biden removed when he took office.

While current White House officials could attempt to dismiss the Houthis as a “wild card” utterly independent from the influence of Iran, they also must take some responsibility for the release of former President Donald Trump’s sanctioned funds now being used to help finance the attacks.

Although the president’s administration ultimately blocked the release of $6 billion in Iran prisoner exchange ransom money while under pressure from six Senate Democrats who are up for reelection in competitive states. December 19, the State Department reissued a revenue waiver giving Iran access to over $10 billion for electricity shipments to Iraq.

While the waiver was part of an unwritten agreement, the Biden administration secretly hid in the “Iran nuclear deal,” which would never have passed Congress; Tehran, Reuters reports, has already processed enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture three nuclear bombs.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, after describing the attacks in the Red Sea as an international situation to disassociate politically from Gaza and other conflicts supported by Iran, recently announced the creation of a 10-member multinational maritime task force — “Operation Prosperity Guardian” to respond.

The defenseless political “coalition” includes Spain, Canada, and the Netherlands, with Bahrain as the only current Middle East country participating.

Foreign policy setbacks of the Biden administration in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and the Middle East have displayed the weakness of strategy and leadership to America’s adversaries and allies.

All have a sense that the president wants more than anything to avoid escalating conflicts during an election year.

As retired U.S. Navy Captain Jerry Hendrix, senior fellow at the Sagamore Institute, indicated, “The world can see this, which might explain Iran’s boldness in the face of U.S. naval patrols.”

To clarify, no one should wish for conflicts to escalate…not even in a non-election year.

Nonetheless, the solution should never be to avoid conflict through weak appeasements of circumstances that give bullies any lasting advantages.

Allowing the Iran-backed Houthis to control and terrorize a crucial world shipping lane is only an unacceptable example, one that will disrupt Middle East peace prospects further and strengthen Chinese military ambitions in the South China Sea, the Pacific — including the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Elections do matter…with none more important than the one now less than a year away.