The Houthis and the Red Sea: can the Houthis be deterred?

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Date: Wednesday, 7 February 2024

Time: 14:00 - 15:00

Date: Wednesday 7 February | Location: Online Webinar | Time: 14:00 – 15:00 (UTC)

Co-host: Mishcon de Reya

Can the Houthis be prevented from further attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and have the US-led attacks on Yemen degraded their capacity to do so? They have responded by threatening to attack targets on both land and sea which will only lead to further action against them. This, in turn, will lead to continuing disruption in the Red Sea and potentially widen the current conflict in Gaza and beyond.

The Houthis, who have been at war — and have been bombed by the previous Yemeni regime and then Saudi Arabia — since 2004 should certainly not be underestimated. They have arisen from a small and obscure religious and political group to take control of two-thirds of Yemen’s population in the face of the Saudi-led coalition. At the heart of their ideology is a deep antipathy to Israel and the US and their false portrayal of their Red Sea operations — as being directed only against shipping linked to Israel — resonates in Yemen and the wider region. Iran has provided support, weapons and training, but the Houthis are not Iranian proxies and are instead one of Iran’s allies in the so-called Axis of Resistance.

This briefing by two leading experts on Yemen will analyze the current and future state of the conflict. It will cover:

  • Who are the Houthis and what accounts for their rise?
  • How powerful and secure is the Houthi position in Yemen
  • How to they maintain control
  • The Houthis, Iran and Hezbollah
  • Houthi-Saudi relations and the peace process
  • How can the Houthis be deterred?
  • Negotiation with the Houthis
  • The risk of a widening conflict
  • Risks to Red Sea shipping
  • Are there better strategies for deterring the Houthis?

Speakers

Noel Brehony – The former chairman of Menas Associates and the British Yemeni Society has known Yemen since the 1970s when he was a diplomat based in Aden. He wrote Yemen Divided (2011) and co-edited Global, Regional and Local Dynamics in the Yemen Crisis (2020). He was Middle East director for Rolls-Royce and President of the British Society for Middle East Studies.

Edmund Fitton-Brown – a former British diplomat, works for the Counter Extremism Project. He graduated from Cambridge University and joined the Foreign Service in 1984. His career included postings in Finland, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the UAE; and culminated as UK Ambassador for Yemen. He joined the United Nations in 2017 as an Expert with the ISIL/Al-Qaida/Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team before taking over as Coordinator of the Team in January 2018, a position which he held until July 2022. He speaks Arabic and is best known as a specialist in the Middle East, regional security and international counter-terrorism. He is married, with his home base in Austin, Texas, and has three adult children: a daughter and two sons.

Greg Falkof, Partner in the International Arbitration Practice, Mishcon de Reya