Egypt Worries US-British Attacks On Houthis Could Escalate Gaza Conflict


By Edward Yeranian

After the latest U.S. and British airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen in response to Houthi drone attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, some commentators in Egypt said that more attacks could reduce Suez Canal traffic and damage the Egyptian and world economy. 

Former Egyptian deputy foreign minister Hussein Haridi told Arab media that the U.S. and British attacks would probably damage Egypt’s already-struggling economy and cut shipping through the Suez Canal even more than the 30% decline that occurred in December. 

He said if the U.S.-British attacks on the Houthis continue, it’s not going to resolve the problem but exacerbate it and cause a widening of the conflict to other fronts in the region and affect both the security and the economies of the [Middle East] and Europe. 

Haridi noted that an escalating conflict could result in an attack on a U.S. or British warship, that would force a more robust response from the U.S. or Britain. 

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA that the U.S. and British strikes against the Houthis come after dozens of Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and are intended to dissuade them from conducting more attacks: 

He said that the U.S. and British strikes come after 32 Houthi attacks, not just against ships heading toward Israel but international shipping, in addition to a major attack on January 9 using 13 drones and a barrage of missiles, causing over 2,000 ships to divert from the Red Sea and Suez Canal [to take the longer route around the Horn of Africa]. 

Professor Said Sadek at Egypt’s Japanese University in Alexandria told VOA that he thinks the U.S. would have killed Houthi leaders or commanders if it had really wanted to escalate the situation and that Yemen’s tribal society would have pushed the Houthis to seek revenge. Egypt, he suggested, may also have turned a blind eye to the U.S. attack.

“[Egypt] may have turned a blind eye [to the attack] because it’s 3,200 kilometers from Cyprus [where there’s a British base] to Yemen,” he said.

London-based Iran expert Ali Nourizadeh told VOA that he thinks that Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders are working closely with the Houthis to coordinate drone strikes and other attacks on Red Sea shipping. 

“The Iranians, one way or the other, insisted that they were not involved [in the attacks on Red Sea shipping],” he said. “While they were involved, but [Iran] doesn’t want to put America in a corner and force them to attack, so they said they were not involved, and they keep saying that.” 

Nourizadeh also said he thinks that Israel doesn’t want to expand the scope of its proxy conflict with Iran, either. “One front is enough for [Israel],” he argued. “Israel hasn’t even fought with [Lebanon’s] Hezbollah militia group the way they thought they would fight.”

Israel, has nevertheless, attacked pro-Iranian militia forces in Syria on a number of occasions since the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which ignited the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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