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Houthi rebels reject deal with Putin

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Putin’s ties to Iran and the Houthi rebels have so far protected Russian merchant ships in the Red Sea. And that seems to be over.

Russia has relied on Iranian-made drones in the Sanaa-Ukraine war, and has strategically relied on Iran and its allies since the start of its invasion. Vladimir Putin maintains close ties with Tehran, and Iran-backed Houthi rebels shield Russian merchant ships from their attacks in the Red Sea. But despite deals with Iran, Moscow’s ability to stop Houthi attacks in the Red Sea on ships carrying Russian cargo remains limited.

Since November, Houthi rebels have fired drones and missiles at Western merchant ships in retaliation for Israel’s war in Gaza and in solidarity with “Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the West Bank.” Although several ships said the Houthi rebels were targeting merchant ships in contact with Israel Newsweek No clear connections with the country. In response, many shipping companies diverted ships from the Suez Canal to the longer route around Africa, disrupting global trade.

Despite promises, Houthi rebels attacked ships carrying Russian and Chinese cargo

Ambrey, a British maritime defense firm, said the Houthis’ actions were increasingly affecting non-Western ships and that Russia could no longer rely on security in the Red Sea. Russian ships, including tankers carrying Russian oil and container ships bound for Russian ports, transit the area in large numbers. In early January, Houthi fighters mistakenly targeted a tanker carrying Russian oil southeast of the Yemeni port city of Aden. In March, the Huangpu, a Chinese ship carrying Russian oil, was attacked.

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Houthi rebels from Yemen have been targeting ships in the Red Sea. (archive photo) © dpa

Daniel Muller, Ambrey’s regional analyst for the Middle East and Indian Ocean, sees the attacks as undermining the Houthis’ credibility. They had previously promised not to attack Russian or Chinese cargo ships. He said the Houthi rebels targeted ships owned by China because they suspected trade ties with Israel, Britain, the United States or Israel. “Ships carrying Russian cargo or ships destined for Iran were also attacked,” he said Newsweek. “The Israeli, British or American connections may be stronger than the links China Or Russia.”

“There is little political pressure from Russia or China,” says the maritime security expert

Mueller added: “Political pressure from Russia or China to end Houthi attacks on shipping or to ensure the protection of Chinese and Russian interests appears to have limited effectiveness of Houthi guarantees on Russian and Chinese shipping.” The assessment, including a thorough verification of the shipping link, “indicates that the operations have failed to deter or reduce the activity of either Iran or the Houthis.”

Houthi attacks have already had a major impact on maritime trade in the region. Container shipping through the Bab el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, fell by 66 percent between December 2023 and February 2024. And many companies are switching to the route around the Cape of Good Hope.

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