Houthis of yesterday and today

(To Gian Carlo Poddighe)

We have returned to the hottest times of the Cold War, also in the tones and forms of Italian politics, developed on the basis of preconceptions and ideologies and not in terms of Italian interests.

The debate on the mission Aspides it is proof of this, politically not the most important but certainly the most controversial at this moment, without even realizing that it is also the most challenging and dangerous.

No distinctions are allowed in foreign policy, especially in a semi-war context such as the one we find ourselves in. Italy's credibility and our national security are at stake.

We are not engaged in humanitarian and diplomatic actions (necessary, appropriate, but collateral and dependent on external factors and actors with which to interact and coordinate), but we are directly operating for our safety and survival, as is clearly illustrated and explored in detail in " Red Sea Report” published by SeaCS, the Giuseppe Bono Center*.

Paradoxically it seems that news, not history, goes back a few decades, without even the proliferation of commentators discovering it; it is not the "usual" anti-piracy action, the Houthis are an armed organization, not "nice little pirates" like those drawn in cartoons, but much more dangerous, for example, of Hamas.

Few know what their war capacity is, they are supplied (Iran, China?, ...?) with missiles, rockets, unmanned aerial and surface vehicles in large quantities (and the availability makes up for the quality of the means and conduction) and less is known about skill acquisition underwater (a relatively easy objective with underwater cable networks for data transmission, but that doesn't mean that ships aren't being thought about, with self-propelled vehicles but also with the return to mines as already done in the past).

Sectors for which, after the easily induced intoxication of the supposed end of the Cold War, perhaps not all the necessary attention has been paid.

The intervention of Duilio of a few days ago should neither lead to easy enthusiasm nor make us feel calm, but only to make us aware of the commitment and that - even though we are more prepared and ready than other countries (see Germany itself), even though we have suitable means towards some threats - we also necessarily expose ourselves to many risks that we do not cover, or do not cover completely.

The Houthis have been fighting for decades, axis of a religious political conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, and of a parallel conflict not only over the control of energy but over the development model that the Arab countries will inevitably have to adopt, a transition that also includes (is?) a Western model, including peaceful relations, including those with Israel, which features Saudi Arabia, the kingdom led de facto by Mohammed bin Salman (following photo), also opposed in the West, with evident recourse to disinformation, in the same way as the Shah of Persia was in his time, a similarity that should alarm the entire West, self-defeating and of memory short about his own mistakes.

Hitting the allies of the Jewish state is a narrative, the "legend", that the Houthis and Iran (or Iran for the Houthis) have built and support to hit and undermine a development model that would have marginalized them, a narrative which seeks to hide the Houthis' desire to use the context - including the demonstration of military capabilities, including the desire to ascribe themselves as leaders of the pro-Iranian resistance network - for their own legitimacy and interests in negotiations on the civil war in Yemen .

After more than ten years, the Houthis have reached a decisive moment of negotiations, they want to flex their muscles, because they know that it is a language that can be received from the other side of the table - where Sanaa sits (it remains to be seen which one and how reliable), Saudis and Emirates.

One step, a negotiation that concerns more than peace (goes?) the development model to follow, or at least the times and forms to follow: any delay works in Iran's favor, even if it may not be for the Houthis, it depends on their unscrupulousness and reliability towards their mentor.

Riyadh has in fact been put in a problematic position by the dual move (with a single direction) by Hamas and the Houthis.

Riyadh cannot "lose face" as a confessional Arab country, with Mecca as its absolute reference point, and although on the one hand it wants to negotiate an agreement to get out of the war, on the other he is aware that any agreement would be a defeat to be managed carefully.

In both situations it is necessary to move to protect first and foremost the internal narrative of a confessional country, even if under the leadership de facto of Mohammed bin Salman who somehow, by hook and by crook, was able to purify the kingdom, Saudi Arabia has substantially changed its line on regional affairs.

Less than ten years ago, he firmly believed in the need to exercise power with military force, with the heavy confrontation, together with the Emirates, in the Strait of Bab el Mandeb: now he is trying to normalize a series of complex situations (from the relationship with the Iran to relations with Israel up to the war in Yemen): perceives and wants to make the region but the entire international community perceive that general détente is necessary to create a Middle East of prosperity, not based only on parasitic incomes such as extractive ones

A new Middle East that Riyadh intends to lead – and as a Saudi source explains, “the new Middle East hates the old Middle East".

The Houthis play not a double but a triple match, and it is no coincidence that their spokesperson, a sort of foreign minister, Al Ezzi expressed "particular gratitude" to Saudi Arabia for its reluctance to join the US and UK attacks on Yemen, adding that the militia is “eager” to begin peace negotiations with the Kingdom: “Sanaa (says the spokesperson insinuating that the militias control the capital, therefore they represent Yemen, ed.) is ready for peace with Riyadh despite the challenges posed by the United States and its associated Yemeni groups”.

The threat to commercial traffic, a threat of which Italy is one of the main victims, is part of this bloody "game", a game which may not lead to temporary distortions of trade, but could lead to a permanent reorganization of trade which it would irreparably damage our country.

Faced with all this, it is completely clear that the Italian national interest is measured and protected with a direct Italian and European intervention, politically correct even if operationally a broad "collective" intervention, NATO or not just NATO, would have been more effective. , with clear and truly deterrent rules of engagement.

Those on the front line must be supported, not limited at the risk of fear (of interpretations) prevail over ability and ability.

The political importance of this intervention also lies in the fact that it is a European mission in which Italy has a leading role; it will serve to cover, support and guarantee sea routes that are fundamental for us and even if the base is located in Larissa in Greece, the command is entrusted to Italy with an admiral in the role of force commander.

It is a significant step for us, for Italy's role, for the security of global maritime routes and therefore for collective security: it could be a first sign of a common European response which for Italy coincides with the G7's six-monthly guide, a sort of test bed, with precedents in past meetings, given that in the future the G7 meetings will aim to increasingly consolidate naval surveillance as a protection of everyone's safety and well-being.

As was said in the recent parliamentary debate, when history moves forward, balances are redrawn, peoples and states can decide to stay in the second row and follow the games written by others, or they assume responsibilities also accepting, as is obvious, i risks of the case.

Nothing new under the sun, especially for the short Western memory and the lability of our national political memory: the current Red Sea crisis has a parallel, if not a replica, of the "tanker war" of the 80s , equally bloody, except that at the time we stood by the window, and all the weight of the conflict fell on the US Navy, a precedent that is perhaps worth revisiting also in light of the unknowns of the next US electoral campaign and the different balances that could derive from it.

* https://www.academia.edu/115347980/Rapporto_SEACS_La_crisi_nel_Mar_Rosso_contesto_e_implicazioni_globali?email_work_card=view-paper

Photo: US Navy opening (The USS STARK, FFG 58 hit by a missile - Iraqi Exocet - in May 1987. The encore that the current protagonists dream of) / Navy / Kremlin