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The Gulf Region & Yemen in January 2024

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January 3, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia Officially Joins BRICS Group.
    Saudi Arabia has officially become a full member of the BRICS group, which previously included Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. This expansion also added Iran, the UAE, Egypt, Argentina, and Ethiopia to the group. Saudi Arabia’s membership comes amidst geopolitical tensions between the US and China, and the kingdom’s concerns about the US’s reduced commitment to Gulf security.
  2. Saudi Arabia Approves Investment Cooperation Agreement with Turkiye.
    Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet, under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has approved the cooperation agreement on promoting direct investments previously signed with Turkiye. Details about the agreement were not disclosed. This agreement was signed during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Saudi Arabia on July 17, 2023.
  3. Qatari Guard Commander Discusses Military Cooperation in Ankara. Qatari Guard Commander, Major General Haza’a bin Khalil Al-Shahwani, visited the Turkish capital, Ankara, to discuss military relations between the two countries. During the visit, he met separately with the Turkish Minister of Interior, Ali Yerlikaya, and the Chief of the Turkish Gendarmerie, General Arif Çetin. Discussions focused on mutual security and military cooperation, aiming to enhance and develop bilateral ties.
  4. Arab Strategic Forum in Dubai Envisions the World in 2024. The Arab Strategic Forum in Dubai, titled “The Political and Economic State of the Arab World in 2024,” gathered elite officials and thought leaders to discuss the political and economic situation in the Arab world. The forum aimed to forecast political and economic changes, Arab roles in regional and global shifts, and the upcoming challenges. Key discussions included the Gulf states’ economic  influence and the impact of hosting global events, like the Qatar 2022 World Cup and Saudi Arabia’s 2034 World Cup. Experts also highlighted regional crises such as the Gaza conflict and Sudan’s internal issues.
  5. Jordan Receives Final Installment of $38 Million Saudi Grant. The Jordanian government has received the fifth and final installment of a $250 million grant pledged by Saudi Arabia in 2018 to support Jordan’s general budget over five years (2018-2022). The grant aims to alleviate economic challenges faced by Jordan, following commitments made during a summit in Mecca in 2018, where Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait promised a package of economic aid worth $2.5 billion.
  6. Houthis Escalate Red Sea Shipping Attacks. The Houthi group in Yemen has intensified attacks in the Red Sea, recently targeting the MSC United cargo ship and falsely claiming an attack on the Malta-flagged freighter CMA CGM TAGE, which they believed was Israel-bound. The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) reported no crew harm, while CMA CGM confirmed the vessel was undamaged and headed to Egypt. These attacks, part of over 100 launched by the Houthis against various international ships, 
  7. threaten a critical global trade route
    accounting for 12% of the world’s commerce. In response to these persistent threats, shipping companies have significantly raised prices, and some, like Maersk, have halted Red Sea services. Container Ship Reports Three Explosions Near Yemen. On January 2, 2024, the British maritime security company Ambrey reported that a container ship flying the Maltese flag had reported three explosions nearby off the coast of southwestern Yemen. Ambrey stated that the ship’s captain had been in communication with a coalition warship, and another nearby vessel reported sighting a small boat approximately 50 meters away from the incident site.

January 4, 2024

  1.  Houthi Militia Launches Anti-Ship Missiles Towards Red Sea.
    The US Central Command (Centcom) reported that the Houthi militia fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles from their Yemeni-controlled areas toward the southern Red Sea. The attack occurred in the evening, with the missiles landing in the surrounding waters, causing no reported damage to ships in the region. Centcom expressed concern over the Houthi actions, which have posed a threat to sailors and disrupted international trade, marking the 24th attack against commercial ships since November 19. The British Maritime Trade Operations Authority also reported three explosions near a commercial ship in the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
  2. Houthi Assaults in Red Sea Escalate Shipping Costs and Disrupt Global Trade Routes.
    The aggressive actions by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, including missile strikes and attempted detentions of cargo ships in the Red Sea, have led to a significant surge in sea freight prices. These incidents, particularly an attack on a Maersk ship and ongoing threats, have forced

January 9, 2024

  1. Blinken’s Saudi Visit: Focus on Gaza Stability, Israel Normalization, and Red Sea Security.
    During his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken focused on preventing the Gaza conflict from escalating regionally. Key discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman included exploring normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, contingent on Israel’s moderation in Gaza and commitment to Palestinian interests. Emphasis was placed on halting military operations and bolstering humanitarian efforts to stabilize post-war Gaza, including the potential establishment of a Palestinian state. Additionally, the talks addressed the critical issue of Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, underscoring their impact on global trade and regional security. The Saudi response, emphasizing the cessation of hostilities and the achievement of a just, lasting peace, reflected a commitment to addressing these complex regional challenges.
  2. Qatar and Ukraine Discuss War Resolution Efforts and Family Reunifications.
    In a recent phone conversation, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the ongoing war in Ukraine and efforts to resolve the crisis diplomatically. They focused on the international community’s role in halting the conflict, protecting civilians, and maintaining open communication channels. Additionally, Qatar’s successful mediation in reuniting Ukrainian children with their families, a key humanitarian aspect of its involvement, was highlighted. This initiative aligns with Qatar’s broader commitment to supporting peaceful solutions to the crisis, urging restraint and dialogue among all parties, in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.
  3. Qatari and Iranian Officials Discuss Gaza Developments and Regional Unity.
    In a series of key meetings, the Iranian ambassador to Qatar, Salehabadi, engaged with top Qatari officials, including the Speaker of the Shura Council, Abdulaziz bin Khaled Al-Ghanim, and the Minister of State for International Cooperation, Lulwa Al Khater, to discuss the evolving situation in the Gaza Strip. These discussions centered on the plight of the Palestinian people amid the Israeli war and the broader regional implications. In a parallel meeting with the Jordanian ambassador in Doha, the importance of regional unity to address these challenges was underscored. These talks follow a recent telephonic conversation between Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his Iranian counterpart, emphasizing the need for a collaborative approach to the Gaza crisis.
  4. UAE-Syria Relations: Navigating Drug Smuggling Issues and Diplomatic Ties.
    Recent events have raised questions about the current state of UAE-Syria relations, which gained momentum since 2018 but now seem to face potential challenges. Notably, the absence of a New Year congratulatory call from Bashar Al Assad to the Emirati President and the departure of the Syrian ambassador to the UAE without a named successor have sparked speculations. These diplomatic nuances, coupled with the absence of Emirati officials at the ambassador’s farewell, are perceived as indicators of a shift in the UAE’s stance. This change is believed to be linked to pressing the Syrian government for more rigorous efforts in combating drug smuggling, particularly Captagon, which has led to armed clashes and air strikes near the Jordanian border. Despite these issues, the strategic normalization path between the two countries remains, as evidenced by the UAE’s support for Syria’s inclusion in the League of Arab States and its aid in vital projects within Syria.
  5. Oil Tankers Brave Risks in Red Sea Amid Houthi Threats.
    In the face of escalating threats by the Houthi militia in the Red Sea, which include the deployment of booby-trapped boats and the construction of sea canals, oil and fuel tankers continue to navigate this volatile region. Yemeni intelligence has shed light on the militia’s tactics in the Al-Faza and Al-Majilis areas, where they introduce small explosive-laden boats into sea channels. The strategically crucial Bab al-Mandab Strait, which plays a pivotal role in about 12% of global trade, is experiencing heightened risks. However, the primary east-west oil corridor remains operational, as major oil companies exercise caution while maintaining their Red Sea routes.

January 10, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia’s Secret Meeting on Ukraine Peace Talks.
    Saudi Arabia covertly hosted a meeting last month with Ukraine, G7 nations, and select Global South countries, as reported by Bloomberg. This gathering aimed to rally support for Kiev’s conditions to initiate peace negotiations with Russia. Attendees included national security advisors, with the secrecy intended to ease participants’ concerns. The meeting followed larger public events countering Moscow’s narrative and promoting willingness to negotiate an end to the conflict. Ukraine is advocating for a global peace summit this year, amidst intensified Russian military actions. The Riyadh meeting, which included officials from India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, acknowledged Ukraine’s right to self-defense and upheld key UN principles. However, notable countries like China, Brazil, and the UAE were absent, and no substantial progress was reported.
  2. U.S. and UK Forces Thwart Houthi Attack on International Shipping in the Red Sea.
    On January 9, Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen launched a coordinated attack targeting international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea using Iranian-designed drones, cruise missiles, and a ballistic missile. This assault, aimed at dozens of merchant vessels, was successfully countered by American and British naval forces, including the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the UK’s HMS Diamond, neutralizing 18 drones, two cruise missiles, and a ballistic missile without causing any injuries or damage. This marks the 26th Houthi attack on Red Sea shipping routes since November 19. The U.S. Central Command highlighted the Houthis’ persistent threats to global trade, as these assaults prompted changes in shipping routes, impacting up to 12% of global commerce. In response, the U.S. has spearheaded a multinational naval coalition to secure maritime traffic in the region, encouraging a gradual return to safer navigation through the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait.
  3. Oman Thwarts Drone Smuggling Attempt from UAE to Yemen.
    Oman’s customs authorities intercepted a shipment of drones coming from the UAE and destined for Yemen at the Hafeet border crossing. The discovery raised concerns about drone attacks by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, disrupting global trade and causing inflation fears.

January 11, 2024

  1. Oil Prices Surge Amid Reports of Tanker Seizure near Oman.
    Oil prices jumped nearly
    2% after reports of an armed group boarding an oil tanker east of Oman. The vessel, previously accused of carrying sanctioned Iranian oil, was en route to Iran’s Bandar Jask.
  2. Washington Commends Saudi Efforts in Combating and Financing Terrorism.
    The U.S. State Department’s 2022 report on counterterrorism praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts in fighting and financing terrorism, noting enhanced security standards, border control, counter-extremism laws, and international cooperation, resulting in a significant decrease in terrorist attacks.
  3. $11.2 Billion Turkish Exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2023.
    Turkey’s 2023 exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE amounted to $11.2 billion, a significant increase from the previous year’s $6.3 billion. The growing political and diplomatic ties, coupled with agreements between Turkey and Gulf nations, fueled this surge in exports, with the UAE ranking 9th and Saudi Arabia 20th in Turkey’s list of top importing countries. Further trade growth is anticipated in 2024.
  4. Armed Iranian Group Boards Vessel Off Oman Amid Houthi Tensions.
    Iranian-trained Houthi rebels, involved in targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea, completed a six-month training program under IRGC’s Quds Force supervision. Subsequently, an Iranian group, wearing military-style attire and masks, boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker off Oman’s coast, heightening maritime security concerns. In response to escalating attacks, the UN Security Council, backed by the US and Japan, called for an immediate halt to Houthi hostilities, facing objections from Russia, China, and Algeria over the resolution’s perceived politicization. Senior Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi criticized the resolution, demanding a cessation of Israeli actions in Gaza and condemning US and British support for Israel, while justifying Houthi actions as defense. The attacks have disrupted global trade, evidenced by a 1.3% drop in November to December 2023, and have pressured retailers to adjust supply chains, fearing further inflation. Despite these tensions, the French Navy asserted its current Red Sea capabilities as adequate, operating in coordination with US-led efforts.

January 12, 2024

  1. Anticipation in Saudi Arabia for Iranian President Raisi’s Official Visit to Riyadh.
    Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan has officially announced the upcoming visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Saudi Arabia. This announcement was made during a phone conversation between the Saudi and Iranian ministers, where they discussed a range of common issues. Topics included the current state of bilateral relations and recent developments in Palestine. The conversation also touched upon the prospects of expanding political relations, following an agreement between Iranian President Raisi and the Saudi Crown Prince. This visit marks a significant diplomatic engagement between the two nations, indicating a potential shift in regional dynamics.
  2. Saudi Authorities Foil Major Captagon Smuggling Operation at Haditha Port.
    The Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority has successfully intercepted a significant smuggling attempt at the Haditha port, seizing 841,440 Captagon pills. These were clandestinely concealed within iron boxes inside a truck entering the Kingdom. In response to this incident, the Authority has reaffirmed its commitment to bolstering customs control and intensifying efforts to combat smuggling activities. This initiative is in collaboration with relevant authorities, aiming to safeguard societal security and the national economy. Additionally, the Authority has urged public cooperation in these anti-smuggling efforts, offering financial rewards for providing accurate information that helps in thwarting such illegal activities.
  3. PLO Secretary Conducts Consultations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia on Gaza Situation.
    Hussein Al-Sheikh, the Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is currently engaged in diplomatic consultations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia regarding the escalating situation in Gaza. In his meeting with the Qatari Prime Minister, discussions centered on the recent developments in Israeli aggression and concerted efforts to halt the conflict. Al-Sheikh emphasized the urgent need for a comprehensive political solution to address the ongoing crisis. These talks reflect a broader regional effort to find a sustainable resolution to the turmoil in Gaza.
  4. Global Impact of US-British Strikes on Houthis in Yemen.
     US and British airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen have led to no response thus far. These strikes, a response to Houthi attacks on international shipping, were aimed at radar systems, air defense, and drone capabilities. Despite Houthis denying threats to international shipping, a Houthi leader warned that the aggression would not go unanswered. US officials stated the strikes aimed to diminish the Houthis’ military strength while minimizing collateral damage. The actions prompted Russia to call for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting, condemning the strikes as a breach of the UN Charter. The European Union is contemplating deploying naval forces for Red Sea ship protection. Concurrently, Tesla halted car production in Germany due to attack-related delivery delays. Israel heightened its alert status, and Hamas labeled the strikes a “terrorist act.” Jordan cautioned against the potential escalation of a broader Middle East conflict, citing Israeli actions against Palestinians. Following the airstrikes, oil prices surged by 2.37%, fueled by rising tensions and potential disruptions in global oil supplies. Saudi Arabia urged restraint and expressed deep concern over the Red Sea’s security and stability, emphasizing the need to avoid further escalation in the region. The Saudi Press Agency reported Riyadh’s call for calm in light of the ongoing military operations and airstrikes in Yemen.

January 15, 2024

  1. Qatar Temporarily Halts Natural Gas Transit Through Bab al-Mandab Strait.
    Qatar has temporarily ceased the transportation of liquefied natural gas through the strategically important Bab al-Mandab Strait, as reported by Bloomberg. This suspension arises amid heightened tensions in the Red Sea, largely due to Houthi attacks on commercial vessels and the subsequent American-British military response. The halt underscores the escalating security risks in the region, prompting Western nations to deploy battleships and establish an alliance to safeguard maritime navigation.
  2. Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, and Pakistan Forge Military Alliance to Boost Joint Defense.
    Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, and Pakistan are moving towards a strengthened military partnership, focusing on advanced cooperation in defense industries and technology. Key aspects of the signed agreements include localizing drone production, developing munitions, and manufacturing optical sensors. This alliance is indicative of a shared commitment to bolster defense capabilities and pursue self-reliance, while reinforcing the fraternal and historical ties among the three nations.
  3. Air Strikes on Houthis Stir Regional and Gulf Concerns.
    The escalation of air strikes by the United States and Britain against the Houthis in Yemen has heightened apprehensions among Gulf countries. There are growing fears of the conflict’s potential to escalate further, impacting regional security. This military action, a counter to Houthi activities in the Red Sea, exacerbates tensions in an already volatile region. Gulf countries find themselves in a precarious situation, balancing their aspirations for regional stability with their economic and development agendas.
  4. Saudi Foreign Minister Leads Delegation to Davos World Economic Forum.
    Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi Foreign Minister, heads to Davos, Switzerland, to lead the Kingdom’s delegation at the 2024 Davos World Economic Forum. The delegation aims to engage in discussions on regional and international challenges and explore avenues for international cooperation. Additionally, they will present the progress under Saudi Vision 2030 and highlight investment opportunities within Saudi Arabia.
  5. Iran and Houthis Declare U.S. and British Interests as Targets.
    In a significant escalation of rhetoric, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, during a phone conversation with the head of the Houthi political council, strongly condemned the United States’ actions in Yemen. President Raisi characterized these actions as emblematic of U.S. aggression and a contradiction to the principles of human rights. He also noted that the global community widely condemns these measures, particularly due to Yemen’s support for Palestine. In alignment with Iran’s stance, the Houthi group reaffirmed its unwavering opposition to Israel. In the wake of recent attacks, the group issued a statement declaring
    American and British interests as legitimate targets for their forces. This declaration is a response to what the Houthis describe as “direct and declared aggression” by the United States and Britain against Yemen, marking a significant intensification in the group’s position and potentially heightening regional tensions.
  6. U.S. Intercepts Houthi Cruise Missile Aimed at American Aircraft Carrier in Red Sea.
    The U.S. Central Command confirmed that a Houthi cruise missile, which was targeted at an American aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, was successfully intercepted early Monday morning, with no reported losses. This interception was shortly followed by an announcement from Houthi media that six Houthi and two Hezbollah members were killed in a bombing in Hodeidah. Contradicting these reports, a U.S. military official categorically denied any involvement in strikes within Yemen, despite claims of bombing near the port of Hodeidah. However, Houthi-affiliated newspapers have reported that the alleged bombing led to the destruction of a missile platform and a Houthi operations room located within the coastal defense building in the area. This incident highlights the ongoing volatility and complexity of the conflict in Yemen, particularly in relation to U.S. military presence and actions in the region.
  7. Search Underway for Two Missing U.S. Soldiers in Gulf of Aden.
    A state of heightened concern has emerged following the disappearance of two U.S. Navy soldiers in the Gulf of Aden. The incident occurred during a mission aimed at intercepting a vessel suspected by American authorities of transporting Iranian arms to Yemen. Arab media outlets, referencing a report by the Washington Post, detailed the events leading to the disappearance. The first soldier reportedly slipped and fell into the water while attempting to board the ship under investigation, suspected of carrying illicit arms. In a bid to rescue him, his colleague subsequently jumped into the sea. Intensive search and rescue operations are currently underway in the Gulf of Aden, with efforts focused on locating the missing soldiers. This incident underscores the risks and challenges faced by military personnel in such critical operations and has sparked significant concern and attention.

January 17, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia’s Leap into the Future: The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Stadium Ushers in an Era of Joy and Progress.
    Saudi Arabia Launches Landmark Prince Mohammed bin Salman Stadium in Qiddiya, Signaling Economic Diversification. In a bold move signaling a commitment to economic development and innovation, Saudi Arabia has unveiled the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Stadium in Qiddiya, a futuristic project designed by the global firm Populous. Situated atop the Tuwaiq Mountain, the stadium features an innovative design with a retractable roof and LED walls, allowing for a diverse range of events. Equipped with advanced climate control technologies and an under-stadium cooling lake, the stadium aligns with LEED standards for sustainable design. This aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, aimed at diversifying income sources and creating job opportunities. Qiddiya city itself, aspiring to be a global leader in entertainment, sports, and culture, is set to enhance Riyadh’s economy and improve quality of life. Located 40 minutes from downtown Riyadh, the city will house 60,000 buildings and provide 325,000 job opportunities, contributing to an increase in the GDP by 135 billion Saudi Riyals and anticipating 48 million visits annually. The project reflects the Kingdom’s vision of moving away from oil dependency towards a diversified and sustainable economy, focusing on investing in entertainment and cultural infrastructure. This move showcases Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of stability and growth amidst regional tensions. In the international arena, Saudi ministers attending the Davos conference expressed the urgency of an immediate ceasefire and growing concerns over risks in the Red Sea, highlighting the need to address the root causes of such conflicts, in a nod to Iran. Additionally, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman in Davos to discuss  enhancing bilateral relations and the latest developments in Gaza. 
  2. Escalation in the Red Sea and Its Implications on Maritime Security and Global Economic Stability.
    The ongoing Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea are escalating concerns about maritime security and its impact on global economic stability. These attacks, involving anti-ship ballistic missiles, have led to the suspension of operations by 19 shipping companies through the Suez Canal and forced the Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen to halt its Red Sea operations. In a significant development, the U.S. military command announced that on January 11, 2024, it intercepted advanced Iranian weapons bound for the Houthis. The seizure was executed by U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) naval forces near the Somali coast in the Arabian Sea’s international waters. The operation, conducted by U.S. Navy SEALs supported by helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from USS LEWIS B PULLER (ESB 3), resulted in the capture of components for medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles, as well as air defense systems. On January 15, 2024, at 2:00 PM Sanaa time, U.S. forces detected a Houthi-launched anti-ship ballistic missile aimed at the Southern Red Sea shipping lanes. The missile failed and landed in Yemeni territory without causing injuries or damage. At 4:00 PM, the Iran-backed Houthis fired another anti-ship ballistic missile from Yemen, striking the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship operated by the United States. The ship reported no injuries or significant damage and continued its journey. The situation intensified on January 16, 2024. At 4:15 AM Sanaa time, U.S. forces conducted strikes against the Houthis, destroying four anti-ship ballistic missiles ready for launch in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. At 1:45 PM, the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea, hitting the M/V Zografia, a Maltese-flagged bulk carrier. The vessel remained seaworthy and continued its transit through the Red Sea with no reported injuries. These escalating Houthi attacks in maritime chokepoints and the Arabian Sea have led to significant disruptions in international shipping. The ongoing threats have forced vessels, including those transporting liquefied natural gas from Qatar, to take alternative routes such as the Cape of Good Hope. The situation has prompted closed-session discussions at the United Nations Security Council, involving the UN envoy and other officials, focusing on Houthi attacks

January 18, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia and BRICS Membership: Uncertainty Prevails.
    Conflicting reports have emerged regarding Saudi Arabia’s status in the BRICS group, a coalition of emerging economies including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. In early January, Saudi media initially reported that the Kingdom had commenced full membership in the BRICS bloc, a move announced at a summit in Johannesburg in August 2023. This expansion was to include other nations such as Iran, the Emirates, Egypt, Argentina, and Ethiopia. However, a recent statement by Saudi Minister of Commerce, Majid Al-Qasabi, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, contradicts these earlier reports. Al-Qasabi clarified that Saudi Arabia has received an invitation to join BRICS, but has not officially become a member. This statement has created ambiguity, especially considering the earlier deletion of reports from Saudi state television’s social media accounts, which initially affirmed the Kingdom’s membership.
  2. Houthi Response to Terrorist Designation: Houthi Attacks and U.S. Retaliation.
    The U.S. Central Command in the Middle East reported that around 8:30 PM Sanaa time on January 17, a drone launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen targeted the M/V Genco Picardy, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship owned and operated by the United States, in the Gulf of Aden. The attack caused some damage but no injuries, and the vessel remains seaworthy, continuing its voyage. Later, around 11:59 PM Sanaa time on January 17, U.S. Central Command forces struck 14 Houthi missiles in Yemen, ready for launch. General Michael Erik Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command, stated, “The Iran-backed Houthis continue to endanger international mariners and disrupt commercial shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea and adjacent waterways. We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and always protect our people.” Following the global terrorist designation of the Houthis, their leader Mahdi Mohammed al-Mashat announced plans to classify entities and countries hostile to the Houthis, with a specific focus on Israel. The Houthis’ political bureau stated that the U.S. terrorist designation holds no practical value and pointed to an American-imposed economic blockade on Yemen. Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam deemed the U.S. designation unsurprising, accusing the U.S. of serving Israeli interests. The Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades supported the Houthis, calling the designation a prize for their honorable stance, while Hamas expressed solidarity with the Houthis against challenges, including a naval blockade on Israel. Conversely, Yemen’s legitimate government welcomed Washington’s decision, highlighting ongoing tensions in Yemen and the region. Relatedly, recent reports in Russian and then Houthi and Iranian media reveal that the Houthis possess Soviet T-80BV tanks. Before the 2014 Houthi coup, the Yemeni army reportedly had about 700 T-54 and T-55 tanks, 200 T-62 tanks, 200 M60 tanks, 300 T-72 tanks, 100 T-80 tanks, and 100 T-90 tanks. The critical question is how many of these tanks remain operational, are under Houthi control, their combat capabilities, and usage, especially given the Houthis’ lack of air cover.
  3. Indian Navy Responds to Drone Attack on Marshall Islands Flagged Ship in the Gulf of Aden.
    The Indian Navy reported answering a distress signal from the MV Ginkgo Picardie, a Marshall Islands-flagged ship, following a drone attack in the Gulf of Aden. The incident, revealed by the Indian Asian International News Agency, adds to the ongoing security concerns in the region. US Central Command confirmed a separate but potentially related attack by Houthi drones on another Marshall Islands-flagged ship, operated by the United States, in the same area.

January 19, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia Calls for Ceasefire as Prerequisite for Israel Normalization and Peace Roadmap for Yemen at Davos.
    In a significant statement at the Davos Forum, Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States, affirmed the necessity of a ceasefire as a fundamental precondition for initiating normalization talks with Israel. This declaration comes amid Western media reports speculating about the possibility of an imminent peace agreement between the two nations. Princess Reema emphasized the pain and trauma experienced by both parties, underscoring that the immediate priority should be to halt violence and achieve peace.
  2. Mass Gatherings Respond to Ayatollah Khamenei’s Call for Palestinian Support.
    In a captivating display of unity, civilians gathered in massive assemblies on Friday, immediately following Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s address. Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, called for continued military actions against Israeli interests in his speech. Under the banner of supporting the Palestinian cause, this large-scale gathering took place. These actions come in response to the United States’ designation of the Houthi group as terrorist organizations. The Houthis accused the United States of being the “mother of terrorism” during the rallies they organized in cities like Sanaa, Taiz, and Hodeidah. These organized events highlight the Houthi group’s political agenda, which is heavily influenced by Iran’s directives. The danger in this situation lies in the potential escalation of regional instability, which poses a threat to the interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East. The American Center for Studies of the Levant has translated some of the slogans circulated today in six Yemeni cities under Houthi control to clarify some of the malicious methods employed by the group to brainwash civilians and sow hatred based on false and dangerous information. It is essential to watch the translated video in English. According to local experts’ assessments, a comprehensive awareness campaign based on accurate information should be organized to shape a public opinion grounded in facts against the piracy activities carried out by the Houthi group.
  3.  U.S. Airstrike Claims Lives of Hezbollah Lebanese Experts in Yemen’s Hodeidah Province.
    The U.S. airstrike in the Al-Luhayyah area of Yemen’s Hodeidah province, near the Red Sea, has resulted in the loss of several Hezbollah Lebanese experts. The attack, which specifically targeted a military site in the Jadda mountain area north of Hodeidah, has confirmed the deaths of two Hezbollah experts.

January 24, 2024

  1. The United States Supplies Qatar with Advanced ‘Ababil’ Aircraft to Enhance Its Aerial Capabilities.
    Qatar inaugurated the ‘Ababil’ fighter jet (F15 QA), a new model of the American-made ‘F-15’ aircraft, which represents a leap in its air force strength. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, opened the new aircraft wing at Al Udeid Air Base. The aircraft is equipped with high-end technologies including advanced electronic flight systems, a fully digital glass cockpit, modern sensors, an upgraded radar, and sophisticated electronic warfare capabilities. These aircraft enhance Qatar’s aerial superiority in the Gulf region.
  2. Houthi Attacks Shake and Impact Qatar’s Economy.
    Qatar expresses its concern over the increasing Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, which affects its trade and forces ships to change their course towards Europe. The spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed Al-Ansari, emphasizes the importance of dialogue with Iran and warns of escalating tensions. He stresses that the developments pose a regional threat and affect security and the economy. The United States and Britain respond with strikes against the Houthis, and Qatar supports efforts to de-escalate. The impact extends to regional security and economies dependent on safe navigation.
  3. Houthi Undeterred, Two New Incidents Occurred Off Yemen.
    Following the US Central Command’s announcement of disabling two Houthi anti-ship missiles in the southern Red Sea, two maritime incidents off the coast of Yemen have escalated regional tensions. The British Maritime Trade Operations Authority reported an incident 45 nautical miles south of Aden, and another 50 nautical miles south of Mokha, where a ship experienced a nearby explosion. Despite these occurrences, no injuries or damages were reported. These developments are part of a series of maritime disruptions attributed to the Houthi group, which has intensified its attacks in the region, impacting global shipping routes and raising concerns about wider geopolitical implications.
  4. Precise U.S. Airstrikes and Warnings of Environmental Disaster Due to ‘Safir’ Tanker.
    On January 24th at 2:30 AM local time in Sanaa, U.S. Central Command conducted precision airstrikes targeting two Houthi anti-ship missiles in the southern Red Sea region. The locations of these missiles were identified within areas controlled by the Houthi rebels. Additionally, on Tuesday, the international coalition to protect the Red Sea carried out 18 precise airstrikes on Sanaa, Taiz, and Al-Bayda, as confirmed by the Houthi spokesperson. Furthermore, the Houthis heightened their threats by announcing a one-month deadline for American and British employees to leave the country. Concurrently, the United Nations reported the suspension of the dismantling process of the “Safir” oil tanker, raising concerns about a potential oil spill from the vessel, which still holds 1.14 million barrels of crude oil. Experts describe the situation as a “ticking time bomb,” warning of the potential catastrophic environmental impact.

January 25, 2024

  1. Israeli Minister Smotrich Accuses Qatar of Funding Terrorism and Supporting Hamas.
    Israeli Minister Smotrich, known for his extremist views, levels serious accusations against Qatar. The minister, who leads the far-right Religious Zionism party, stated on the XN platform, “Qatar is a state that supports and funds terrorism,” adding that the emirate, as a patron of Hamas, bears significant responsibility for the massacres committed by Hamas against Israeli citizens.
  2. Kuwait Implements Precautionary Measures to Safeguard Oil Tankers Amid Red Sea Tensions.
    Kuwait Oil Tanker Company has taken precautionary measures to safeguard its fleet of oil tankers in the Red Sea amidst rising tensions in the region, temporarily suspending their passage through the Red Sea pending a continuous review of the situation. The company remains committed to fulfilling its contracts with various countries using foreign tankers despite this suspension.
  3. The World Is Changing: Saudi Arabia’s Tentative Steps Towards Alcohol Legalization.
    Saudi Arabia has announced plans to open its first alcohol store in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, exclusively for non-Muslim diplomats, marking a cautious shift in its long-standing prohibition policy. This move, part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” reform agenda, aims to diversify the economy and modernize the society while maintaining cultural values. The store’s opening has elicited mixed reactions, reflecting the nation’s struggle to balance traditional norms with progressive changes. While the initiative currently affects a limited demographic, it signals a potential gradual shift in Saudi Arabia’s approach to alcohol, amidst debates over its impact on the country’s identity and the thriving black market.
  4. Houthis Disrupt Air Traffic at Yemeni Airports Under Government Control.
    The Houthi rebels assert their control over Yemeni airports belonging to the legitimate government and prevent a United Nations aircraft from landing, marking the second incident this week.
  5. Houthi Strikes Prompt U.S. Supply Ship Retreat in Red Sea.
    Houthi forces in Yemen launched attacks in the Red Sea, targeting two American commercial ships escorted by the U.S. Navy. These ships, operated by Maersk Line Limited and transporting supplies for the U.S. Army, were forced to retreat while crossing the Bab al-Mandab Strait. The U.S. Navy intercepted several projectiles during the incident, and the ships, part of the Maritime Security and Voluntary Sealift programs, returned safely to the Gulf of Aden without any damage or crew injuries. In response to the heightened risk, Maersk has suspended transit of its ships in the region. This incident escalates tensions amidst broader geopolitical challenges in the area, including the Yemeni conflict and the recent designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group by the U.S. government.
  6. Houthi-Al-Qaeda Collaboration in Red Sea Attacks.
    Yemeni sources report meetings in Sanaa and Hodeidah where the Houthis sought Al-Qaeda’s involvement in naval operations targeting Western interests, including suicide attacks. These talks aimed to frame such actions as a ‘jihadist’ duty against American aggression. This collaboration is linked to a series of assassinations in Aden, suspected to involve Al-Qaeda operatives. The U.S., addressing the threat, has launched unilateral airstrikes and re-designated the Houthis as a terrorist group, aiming to disrupt their aggressive maritime activities in the strategically crucial Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
  7. Sanctions on Houthi Leaders: No Ties to American Banks or International Travel.
    US and UK Impose New Sanctions on Houthi Leaders with No Ties to American Banks or International Travel. The United States and the United Kingdom have opted to intensify sanctions on Houthi leaders in Yemen, known for their pro-Iran alignment. These sanctions target four key individuals and encompass asset freezes and travel restrictions. It’s noteworthy that the sanctioned leaders have no connections to American banks and do not engage in international travel. This action aligns with global endeavors to heighten pressure on the Houthi insurgents, underscoring international concern about the escalating conflict in Yemen.
  8. Global Mining Giant BHP Alters Shipping Routes Due to Houthi Assaults in the Red Sea.
    In response to intensified Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, coinciding with the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, the Australian mining conglomerate BHP has rerouted most of its Asia-Europe shipments. This strategic shift circumvents the Red Sea, a critical global shipping lane, in favor of longer routes like the Cape of Good Hope. The Yemeni rebels’ focus on targeting vessels they associate with Israel or its allies has disrupted trade flows, compelling not only BHP but also major oil firms such as BP and Shell to seek alternative paths. These reroutings, while ensuring continuity of business, result in slower, costlier deliveries. This development underscores the widening impact of regional conflicts on global trade and the strategic recalibration of shipping routes by multinational companies.

January 26, 2024

  1. Israel-Qatar Tensions Escalate Over Gaza: Implications for International Mediation.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office vehemently denied involvement in
    the leak of audio recordings criticizing Qatar. These recordings emerged from a confidential meeting with families of Israeli prisoners in the Gaza Strip. Contradicting the Prime Minister’s stance, reports suggest that military censorship authorized the release of the recordings after consulting with Netanyahu’s office. Furthermore, families of the Israeli prisoners accused Netanyahu’s office of deliberate leaking, noting that all meetings with the Prime Minister are routinely recorded. The US State Department sharply criticized Netanyahu’s remarks regarding Qatari mediation in Gaza. Emphasizing Qatar’s vital role as a regional partner, the Department commended Qatar for its efforts in resolving the prisoner issue between Israel and Hamas. It expressed a desire to strengthen ties with Qatar, underscoring its pivotal mediation role in collaboration with the United States and Egypt, which previously led to a truce. The Department also urged Israel to adhere to international law in the Gaza conflict, prioritizing civilian protection.
  2. USS CARNEY Intercepts a Houthi Missile.
    On January 26, the USS Carney, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, intercepted a Houthi-launched ballistic anti-ship missile in the Gulf of Aden, marking an escalation in Houthi maritime aggression. Concurrently, a commercial vessel near Aden reported a separate Houthi attack. The rising threat has led to insurance companies halting coverage for ships from the U.S., Israel, and Britain in the Red Sea, compelling rerouting and surging insurance costs. These developments have drawn international attention, with China urging Iran to control Houthi actions, and a Houthi delegation discussing U.S. and British involvement in Yemen with Russian officials in Moscow. These incidents underscore the growing navigational risks in the region, with implications for international trade and regional stability.  

 

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