Yemen Warms to Russia Amid Plans for Scorched Earth Policy Against Israel

With Yemen fortifying its defenses and Russia offering support, the U.S. faces a growing crisis in the Red Sea. Are Biden and Trump ignoring a looming war?

The election campaign between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump is heating up. Polls show that issues like the U.S. economy, immigration, whether Trump will be incarcerated and whether Biden is mentally fit for office are at the forefront of most Americans’ minds. Yet a significant issue that could have far-reaching consequences for the American people and the world is being almost entirely overlooked.

Neither candidate has thoroughly addressed the risks of a new conflagration in the Red Sea, one which could rival the disastrous U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the issue of Gaza garnered predictable pledges from both candidates to protect Israel at all costs, little scrutiny has been given to the potential risk of a new U.S.-led war, nor the consequences it could have on American interests and the lives of U.S. service members. Forces opposed to Israeli and U.S. actions in the Middle East are intensifying operations, developing vast arsenals of weapons designed to dull the qualitative edge of Western military might and strengthening ties between Washington’s disparate adversaries, particularly Russia.

Lying on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, perhaps more than any other nation, has openly supported Palestine’s struggle against Israeli occupation since the devastating war on Gaza began on October 7. Yemeni citizens are so concerned about a possible American intervention in their country, about stopping the genocide in Gaza and about confronting what they see as illegal U.S. and U.K. aggression near their borders that they still gather in the hundreds of thousands every weekend to express their dismay.

Yemeni military forces, volunteers, political parties, and tribal organizations are preparing to face what they believe are impending new U.S. and Israeli ventures in their region. They are particularly concerned about the possibility of an Israeli invasion of Lebanon with American participation, which could trigger unprecedented attacks on American interests and bases in the region. Ansar Allah, known in the West as the Houthis, takes Israeli threats against Lebanon seriously and is preparing militarily to participate in its defense. High-ranking Ansar Allah officials told MintPress News that they consider any Israeli or U.S. attack on Hezbollah as an attack on Yemen itself.

Ansar Allah’s response, according to official sources, will involve targeting U.S. and Israeli assets in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The group also plans to target Washington and London’s interests across the Middle East and, if needed, to deploy battle-hardened ground troops to conflict zones. These fighters, alongside thousands of partisans from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, and some Arab Gulf countries, have pledged to liberate Israeli-occupied areas of northern Palestine. A high-ranking source in Ansar Allah stated that the organization is prepared to send fighters to any country, whether to defeat Israel, liberate Palestinian lands, or defend any Arab country, including Lebanon.


“Most Intense Combat Since WWII”

Pledges of mutual defense by Ansar Allah come as Yemen is undergoing a campaign to bolster local industrial capability and self-sufficiency amidst a near-total blockade by the U.S., ongoing American and British airstrikes on Yemen, growing popular discontent with American policies and a rising sense of patriotism and solidarity toward Palestine and other Arab countries.

Ansar Allah recently unveiled an advanced unmanned surface vessel (USV), colloquially known as a drone boat, equipped with warheads that they say are capable of sinking merchant and military vessels. Dubbed Tufan al-Modammer (Flood of Destruction), the ship is cost-effective compared to the aerial drones and ballistic missiles that comprise much of Yemen’s arsenal. It carries a 1,000- to 1,500-kilogram warhead, sails at 45 nautical miles per hour (over 83 km/h), and can perform missions in all maritime conditions. It is also equipped with advanced technology, featuring both manual and remote control capabilities, and can evade radar systems.

Before this, the Yemeni army officially revealed that they possessed hypersonic missiles and began deploying them after launching production lines for these advanced, difficult-to-intercept weapons. On June 27, Yemen’s Armed Forces announced a hypersonic ballistic missile, identified as “Hatem-2,” targeting the vessel “MSC SARAH V” in a video released by the Yemeni army media. The Hatem-2 missile features solid-fuel propulsion and an intelligent control system, with multiple generations offering different ranges.

Following the announcement, the head of Ansar Allah, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, issued a stern warning to U.S. aircraft carriers against approaching Yemeni waters. He stated, “We say from now on that the arrival of any new aircraft carrier in the Red Sea will make it a target for our armed forces, and if the new aircraft carrier wants to venture, get involved, and get into an impasse like the Eisenhower was, it will be exposed to danger and advanced missile capabilities that cannot be avoided.”

Violent battles between U.S. aircraft carriers and Yemeni forces in the Red Sea can be likened to “a game of cat and mouse,” with Ansar Allah relentlessly chasing down their locations and targeting them, and the aircraft carrier is constantly moving and changing location to avoid being hit.

In a televised speech broadcast live from the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, the leader of Ansar Allah Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said:

Battles in the Red Sea have attested to the fact that U.S. aircraft carriers are an obsolete weapons system and are not worth spending money on. He confirmed that Yemeni forces are employing more anti-ship ballistic missiles with pinpoint accuracy.

In facing Ansar Allah, the U.S. Navy has admitted facing the most “intense combat” since World War II. On June 30, CBS News reported on the crew of the destroyer the USS Carney, which withdrew from the Red Sea and returned to Florida last May. Commander Jeremy Robertson told CBS then, “We are seeing a target heading towards us at a speed of Mach 5 or 6 (Mach equals 1,235 kilometers). You only have between 15 and 30 seconds to confront them.” He stressed the difficulty of “protecting commercial ships from Houthi attacks,” noting that the battles fought in the Red Sea “have not occurred the likes of them since World War II.”

The military spokesman for Ansar Allah released a statement saying it had hit the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the aircraft carrier leading America’s response to Yemen’s operations, but that the US is keeping this secret.


Ukraine War Enters the Middle East

The preparations and coordination by Yemeni forces come amid ongoing confrontations between the Yemeni Army and American troops in the Red Sea. The situation may worsen for American forces due to strengthening ties between Yemen and Russia. President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow could provide long-range weapons to others to strike Western targets, responding to NATO allies allowing Ukraine to use its arms to attack Russian territory.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, met with the head of the Yemeni negotiating delegation, Muhammad Abdel Salam, to discuss the situation in the Red Sea and Israeli aggression on Gaza. Bogdanov condemned ongoing American and British strikes on Yemen and emphasized the importance of accelerating broad national dialogue among Yemenis under United Nations auspices. Ansar Allah welcomed the announcement.

“The Yemeni army has the intention and audacity to target the most important U.S. vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, including aircraft carriers and destroyers, which are viewed in Yemen as military bases to attack the Yemeni mainland. The talk is not only about hitting or damaging them but also about sinking them. This could happen if the Yemeni forces obtain weapons that achieve this goal,” an Ansar Allah military official told MintPress. Recently, the Yemeni military took another step up the ladder by sinking ships instead of merely disabling them.

The source went on to say, “In terms of interests, this is the best opportunity for Moscow to take revenge on Washington for its support for Ukraine. Given the extent of the suffering that both the Palestinian and Yemeni people are experiencing and the ongoing raids, Yemeni officials will not hesitate to accept any military support from Washington’s enemies. Thanks to American politicians.”

The Yemeni military, which has widespread support across the region due to its blockade on Israel, has maintained a low tempo of action but recently increased its attacks. It still has rungs left to ascend on the escalatory ladder, including using advanced weapons that can sink a destroyer or aircraft carrier.

Meanwhile, commercial vessels signaling “no contact with Israel” or those owned or flagged countries not actively supporting Israel’s actions in Gaza safely pass through. Dozens of countries have already contacted Sana’a, expressing that they do not support genocide in Gaza or Israel at all. However, the costs imposed on maritime shipping are the fault of nations backing Israel. “If the genocide is halted, the blockade ends. This is not complicated.”


Steps in the Escalatory Ladder

Given that the siege and Israeli war on civilians in the Gaza Strip continues, a high-ranking Ansar Allah military source told MintPress that Yemeni forces are about to announce the fifth phase of support operations for Gaza. According to the source, the next phase will differ entirely in its objectives and operations.

Washington was not only wrong in assuming that the presence of a U.S.-led naval coalition would frighten Ansar Allah but also wrong in conducting 450 indiscriminate bombings in Yemen. Instead of dissuading the Yemeni military, these actions have infuriated Yemeni civilians.

Ansar Allah’s announcement comes at a time when both the Yemeni army and the Iraqi resistance launched joint operations against vital Israeli facilities and Israel-linked ships in the Mediterranean Sea. All technical and logistical preparations have been completed, and a series of field experiments targeting Israeli interests in the occupied territories and the Mediterranean Sea have been conducted.

The latest operation was on July 2, when the Yemeni army and the Iraqi resistance targeted a vital site in Haifa with winged missiles. Additionally, the Waller oil ship was targeted in the Mediterranean Sea on June 28. The first joint operation was on June 6, when two ships carrying military equipment for Israel were targeted in Haifa. It is expected that many armed and well-trained groups, particularly those from countries that blame the United States for the ongoing genocide in Gaza, will join in operations against both Washington and Tel Aviv’s interests.

The joint operations room for the Yemeni army and the Iraqi resistance marks a significant shift in deterring Israel and holds strategic value. A military source in Ansar Allah stated, “The joint operation aims to reunite the region, rearrange its geography, and unify it after long-standing divisions among Arab countries.”

Israeli news channel i24NEWS reported that Yemen is expanding its operations into North Africa, including Sudan, Egypt, and Morocco, with the intent to target Israel from these regions. According to the report, Ansar Allah is allegedly attempting to transfer weapons and military forces to these areas.


Saudi Arabia Risks It All

Yemenis continue to suffer under intense U.S. pressure aimed at forcing them to abandon their support for Palestinians. This situation is compounded by Saudi Arabia allegedly retreating from its commitments to de-escalate hostilities. The threats to Yemeni banks, the closure of the SWIFT system, and the restriction of imports to the port of Aden have effectively shut down the port of Hodeidah. Additionally, the recent closure of Sanaa airport has stranded Yemeni pilgrims in Mecca.

The Yemeni army has given Saudi Arabia a deadline to demonstrate good intentions for peace after evidence emerged of Saudi Arabia’s active participation in the U.S. campaign against Yemen. The campaign seeks to pressure Ansar Allah to halt its operations in support of Gaza. A military source reported that a U.S. KC-135R refueling aircraft took off from Saudi Prince Sultan Air Base on July 3, heading towards the Red Sea. Ansar Allah has previously warned Saudi Arabia against involving itself in American-led aggression, stressing that such actions would face a severe response.

The escalating tensions come at a critical time for the region, as Yemen’s internal and external conflicts continue to wreak havoc on its civilian population. The situation is further exacerbated by the blockade imposed on Yemen, cutting off essential supplies and humanitarian aid and leading to a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Yemen’s demands that Saudi Arabia honor its peace commitments underscore the fragile nature of the region’s geopolitical landscape. With the added pressure from the United States, Yemen remains resolute in its support for Palestinian causes despite the heavy toll it has taken on its own people. The coming days will be crucial in determining whether Saudi Arabia will respond to Yemen’s ultimatum and take steps toward de-escalation or if the region will see further conflict and instability.

Feature photo | Ansar Allah supporters shout slogans during a rally against the U.S.-led strikes against Yemen and in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Sanaa, Yemen, May 10, 2024. Osamah Abdulrahman | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.