The United States and Britain launched dozens of military strikes on Yemen on Thursday, raising fears of an escalation of conflict in the region. The strikes, launched in response to Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea that have disrupted global trade, left at least five people dead. The Houthi movement began targeting ships in November “essentially using a naval blockade in the Red Sea to prevent the blockade against civilians in Gaza,” according to our guest, Yemeni American scholar Shireen Al-Adeimi. “This is an offensive act. This is a breach of Yemeni sovereignty,” she says about the U.S. coalition’s strikes, which were launched without approval from Congress, and which Al-Adeimi additionally characterizes as “a defense of capitalism.”
AMY GOODMAN: The United States and Britain launched dozens of military strikes on Yemen on Thursday night, raising fears of an escalation of conflict in the region. The strikes were carried out from land and sea, and targeted areas controlled by the Houthi rebels, leaving at least five people dead.
The U.S. says the strikes came in response to the Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea to protest Israel’s assault on Gaza. President Joe Biden called the strikes, quote, “a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation,” unquote.
Calling the strikes “barbaric,” the Houthis said the group will continue targeting ships heading towards Israel and that the strikes, quote, “will not go unanswered and unpunished,” unquote. At least four oil tankers have diverted course from the Red Sea following the overnight attack.
Yemen has been targeted by U.S. military action and bombings over the last four American presidencies — of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, now Joe Biden.
For more, we’re joined by Shireen Al-Adeimi. She’s a Yemeni American assistant professor at Michigan State University, a nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute, joining us from East Lansing, Michigan.
Professor Al-Adeimi, we thank you for being with us. Can you first respond to the British-U.S. attacks on Yemen last night?
SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: Thanks for having me, Amy.
These attacks are not unexpected. The U.S. has resorted to violence and bombardment in the past. Certainly they’ve been part of the coalition that has supported the — that has bombed Yemen and enforced a blockade, enabled an air blockade, for the past several years, since 2015. So this represents, I think, a continuation of that policy of escalation, a policy of resorting to violence and bombardment rather than doing what most American people have been asking President Biden to do, which is cease fire, calling for a ceasefire in Palestine against the people of Gaza and making sure that, you know, the people of Gaza don’t have to pay the price for the actions of Hamas on October 7th. And so, I think, instead of working with the Israeli government to end what South Africans and others are calling genocide against the Palestinian people, we just see an escalation of hostilities in that region.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what the Houthis are doing in the Red Sea? What ships are they going after? And what has this meant for trade there?
SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: So, they are controlling Bab al-Mandab Strait, which approximately 13% of global shipping goes through. So, anything going through Europe, through the Red Sea, goes through Bab al-Mandab before it gets to Sinai, and the other way around, as well. And they have been targeting any ships that are headed toward Israel, either Israeli ships or ships that are headed towards Israel.
And they have been very clear about why they’re doing this, and they are doing this in support of Palestine, in support of the people of Gaza. And they have repeatedly said that all of these attacks toward these ships that are either Israeli or going towards Israel will stop once the Israelis stop their war on Gaza, and specifically, actually, preventing the food and medicine from entering Gaza — so, essentially using a naval blockade in the Red Sea to prevent the blockade against civilians in Gaza. There’s also — last week they announced that this was also in accordance with their obligations under genocide prevention, Article I of genocide prevention, which says that states should have an obligation to prevent genocide. And so that’s what the Houthis have been saying. That’s what Ansar Allah have been saying.
And the U.S. has mobilized troops in the region to defend shipping, global shipping, essentially, and specifically the Israeli economy. So, the coalition they put together, I think it’s called Operation Prosperity Guardian. And so we have more troops, more U.S. presence in the region in the last few weeks in order to protect the waters from these Houthi attacks.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about the response in Britain and the United States. Responding to the attack, U.S. Congressmember Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley, California, in Congress, said on social media, Biden “needs to come to Congress before launching a strike against the Houthis in Yemen and involving us in another middle east conflict. That is Article I of the Constitution. I will stand up for that regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House. Section 2C of the War Powers Act is clear: POTUS may only introduce the U.S. into hostilities after Congressional authorization or in a national emergency when the U.S. is under imminent attack. Reporting is not a substitute. This is a retaliatory, offensive strike.” Of course, ”POTUS” is the president of the United States. And similarly, Rishi Sunak, the prime minister of Britain, is facing opposition questioning, demanding he come before the British Parliament to explain why he did this without authorization. Professor Adeimi, your response?
SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: Absolutely. There are laws that prevent U.S. presidents from — I mean, the Constitution itself and, of course, the War Powers Act of 1973, they prevent presidents from just going and launching airstrikes, launching war without congressional authority. They don’t have this authority. It’s not an imminent threat. The Houthis were not attacking the U.S. They were preventing shipping toward Israel. You know, this is not a defensive war by any means. And so, not informing Congress of this is a violation of the Constitution.
And we know Biden himself understands this, of course. There are some tweets going around from 2020, when he was — in 2021, when he was criticizing Trump for having gone to or, you know, potentially attacking Iran without going to Congress, saying that no president should do this without congressional approval.
And this tweet that you read coming from Representative Ro Khanna is especially important, because Ro Khanna, along with Senator Bernie Sanders, led the War Powers Act, War Powers Resolution, in Congress in 2019, when they directed Trump to end hostilities in Yemen. And at the time, essentially, refueling Saudi ships and UAE — or, refueling Saudi planes was considered an act of war that the president had no authority to go to use without congressional approval, let alone direct U.S. strikes like we’re seeing right now without congressional approval.
So, again, it’s not defensive, even if President Biden chooses to frame it as a defensive war. This is an offensive act. This is a breach of Yemeni sovereignty. Multiple cities, multiple provinces were attacked last night. There are casualties. There are people who have been killed. We don’t know how many yet. And why escalate to such levels of violence when, you know, the ask was clear — work towards a ceasefire, end the suffering of the Palestinian people? And U.S. interests here are commercial. You know, this is a defense of capitalism, in a sense, as well. And yet we see President Biden resorting and Rishi Sunak resorting to such degree of violation and escalation instead of resorting to diplomacy and ceasefire.
AMY GOODMAN: And as we speak, we’re showing live footage from Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Thousands of people are rallying against the strikes. Shireen Al-Adeimi, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Yemeni American assistant professor at Michigan State University, speaking to us from East Lansing.