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The Gulf Region & Yemen in March 2024

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March 6, 2024

  1. Houthi Missile Attack Kills Two on Cargo Ship
    A Houthi missile attack off Yemen’s coast targeted the Barbados-flagged cargo ship True Confidence, resulting in significant damage, at least two deaths, and six wounded. Despite efforts to change course on orders from an entity claiming to be the Yemeni Navy, the ship suffered a direct hit, leading to an onboard fire, with the fate of 20 crew members and three armed guards uncertain.
    On Tuesday March 4, 2024, the USS Carney countered a Houthi attack by intercepting drones and a missile, as confirmed by CENTCOM, which also reported Houthi strikes on the M/V MSC SKY II in the Gulf of Aden, causing damage. CENTCOM retaliated with strikes targeting Houthi missile capabilities, reflecting ongoing hostilities and U.S. efforts to neutralize threats in the region.
    A report by the Financial Times revealed concerns among US officials over the adequacy of intelligence on the Houthis military arsenal, complicating efforts to safeguard Red Sea shipping lanes.
  2. Houthis Declare Al-Houthi Yemen’s Supreme Leader
    In an interview with “The Atlantic,” Abdul-Malik Al-Ajri, a member of the Houthi negotiating delegation, articulated the group’s vision for Yemen’s political future, emphasizing that Abdul-Malik al-Houthi will retain his role as the supreme political authority, drawing inspiration from Iran’s “Guardianship of the Jurist” model. Al-Ajri boasted about the Houthis’ enhanced global status and their intention to leverage it in negotiations over maritime operations and communications. He boldly compared their anticipated dominance in Yemen to Hezbollah’s position in Lebanon, with al-Houthi paralleling Iran’s Supreme Leader.
  3. Houthis Advance Inland, Impose Permits, CENTCOM Faces Challenges
    The Houthis are advancing towards Marib, aiming to consolidate their position for an assault, amidst US and UK airstrikes targeting Houthi strongholds in Hudaydah Governorate, a key area due to its strategic ports and extensive coastline. Finally, the Houthis today announced a new stipulation that submarine cable ships must obtain a permit from their illegitimate and unrecognized maritime authorities. 

March 12, 2024

  1. Houthis Target Another Commercial Ship; U.S. Forces Launch 6 Strikes Against Houthi Targets.
    The Houthi movement in Yemen declared they targeted a commercial ship named “Pinocchio” in the Red Sea, which they claimed was American. However, the US Central Command clarified that the vessel is actually owned by a Singaporean company and registered under a Liberian flag. This incident is part of the Houthis’ intensified military operations during Ramadan, aiming to escalate their activities. Despite the Houthis’ claim, the US Central Command reported that the attack did not result in any material damage or casualties to the vessel. In retaliation, US forces conducted strikes, destroying a Houthi-operated drone submarine and 18 anti-ship missiles in areas controlled by the Houthis on March 11. This event is set against a backdrop of heightened regional tensions, with the Houthis previously attacking and killing crew members of another ship and causing ships to reroute around Africa, significantly increasing shipping costs. Following the attack against “Pinocchio,” the United States carried out six defensive strikes in Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, according to the US Central Command. These strikes destroyed a drone ship and 18 anti-ship missiles on Monday, after determining that Houthi weapons posed a threat to commercial and US naval ships. 
  2. U.S. and Gulf Allies Conclude Naval and Air Exercises in Kuwait.
    On Tuesday, the United States, along with Britain and Gulf countries, completed naval and air exercises named “Ready Defenders” in Kuwait. These exercises, involving naval and air forces, aim to enhance the collective ability to address regional challenges. This development is part of the broader American-led initiative “Prosperity Guard,” initiated by the US Secretary of Defense to safeguard navigation in the Red Sea. The coalition includes Gulf nations, with some officially acknowledging their participation. The exercises underscore the United States’ effort to consolidate its regional alliance to respond to the increasing threat posed by Houthis militant attacks against American and Western naval vessels in the Red Sea.

March 13, 2024

  1. Saudi Council of Ministers Reiterates the Kingdom’s Requirement for Two-State Solution
    Meeting on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers called for an immediate end to Israel’s “aggression” in the Gaza strip and reiterated the Kingdom’s position that there must be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an independent Palestinian state in 1967 boundaries. The Council also called on the parties in the Sudan conflict to abide by the commitments they made in the the Jeddah Agreement of last year.
  2. Houthis Attack USS Mason, Greek Ship Repels Houthi Drones
    U.S. Central Command announced that Iran-backed Houthi militants fired a ballistic missile from Yemen towards the USS Mason in the Red Sea on Tuesday, but the missile failed to hit the destroyer and caused no casualties or damage. In a related action, U.S. and coalition forces intercepted and destroyed two Houthi-launched drones. Meanwhile, a Greek naval vessel, part of the European Union’s Red Sea protection mission, engaged and repelled two drones, forcing them to retreat, a Greek Defense Staff official said on Wednesday. The EU began its Red Sea mission in February to help protect the main maritime trade route from Houthis attacks. Greece is participating with a frigate in this mission.
  3. German Shippers Say Houthi Attacks Add $1 Million Cost per Voyage
    The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) announced on Tuesday that shipping companies are facing an extra expense of $1 million for each voyage due to the necessity of rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope. This change, aimed at avoiding Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, has significantly affected the global trade flow. Since mid-November, Houthi assaults from Yemen have targeted ships bound for or connected to Israel, disrupting one of the most vital trade pathways, which facilitates 12% of global commerce. 

March 14, 2024

  1. UAE Suspends Major Gas Deal with Israel as a Warning over Gaza
    In a significant rebuke linked to Israel’s ongoing military actions in Gaza, the UAE has suspended a $2 billion acquisition deal for a stake in an Israeli gas company. The move is meant to be a warning from Abu Dhabi that the Abraham Accords do not provide Israel carte blanche for actions threatening regional stability. It also reportedly reflects Emirati concerns over the Gaza war’s impact on Middle East security and economic activities. The deal involved the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and British Petroleum (BP) acquiring a 50% stake in Israeli energy company NewMed. Following the announcement of the deal’s postponement, NewMed’s shares dropped by 7% on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, impacting the broader Israeli oil and gas index.
  2. Saudi-Iran Relations One Year After Reconciliation
    A year following the Saudi-Iranian reconciliation agreement brokered by China, which ended seven years of indirect confrontations, the news outlet Al Khaleej Online assesses that bilateral relations have remained stable despite the ongoing war in Gaza. This reconciliation has directly influenced regional issues, particularly the Yemeni conflict, where there has been a significant reduction in intra-Yemeni hostilities. Despite concerns that the war in Gaza and the involvement of Iran’s proxies might strain these renewed ties, the agreement between Riyadh and Tehran has so far positively affected other regional files, including Syria, and maintained a balance of deterrence, Al Khaleej judges.
  3. Houthis Claim to Test Hypersonic Missile, Signaling Advanced Weaponry Ambitions
    A military source close to the Houthi militia in Yemen disclosed to Russia’s Novosti agency that the Houthis have conducted a test of a hypersonic missile powered by solid fuel and capable of speeds of around Mach 8 (approximately 10,000 km/h). The source said the Houthis plan to deploy the missile for attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Aden, as well as targeting locations in Israel. The hypersonic missile’s high speed and maneuverability make it difficult to intercept with current defense systems. This development follows Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi’s announcement of continued technical advancements that will position the Houthis for strategic military capabilities.
  4. US Military Destroys Drones and Missile in Houthi-Controlled Yemen
    The US military announced early Thursday the successful destruction of four drones and an anti-air missile in areas under Houthi control in Yemen. US Central Command said the operation was a response to the Houthis’ launch of a ballistic missile aimed at ships in the Gulf of Aden, which fortunately did not result in any damage to vessels.

March 19, 2024

  1. Blinken to Discuss Gaza Ceasefire in Saudi Arabia and Egypt
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week, focusing on efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and increase humanitarian aid delivery to the region. Blinken highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, noting that 100% of its population requires aid. Emphasizing the need for Israel to prioritize civilian protection and humanitarian assistance, Blinken’s trip aims to lay the groundwork for a lasting regional peace. This visit follows President Biden’s expression of concern over a potential Israeli ground operation in Rafah and the urgent need for humanitarian relief in Gaza.
  2. U.S. Commander Says Yemen Poses Biggest Challenge to U.S. Navy Since World War II
    U.S. vessels in the Red Sea are engaged in a serious battle against attacks from Yemen against not just commercial ships but also the U.S. naval group assigned for their protection. U.S. Navy Captain Dave Wroe, commanding four destroyers patrolling the Red Sea region, described facing diverse threats from ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, and both surface and underwater unmanned vessels loaded with explosives. He judged that Yemen presents the most significant challenge to the U.S. Navy since World War II, requiring more than just military tools for resolution, pointing towards the necessity of broader government and international efforts.
  3. UN Security Council Demands Houthi Cease Red Sea Attacks
    The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, including the incidents involving MV True Confidence and MV Rubymar, which resulted in tragic casualties and a sunken vessel, posing a navigational hazard. The council stressed the importance of fully implementing Resolution 2216 to prevent arms access to the Houthis and emphasized the critical role of the Red Sea route for humanitarian efforts and local livelihoods. Members called for an immediate halt to Houthi attacks in accordance with international law and reaffirmed their support for UN verification and inspection mechanisms to maintain regional security and stability.

March 21, 2024

  1. Blinken Discusses Discusses Gaza Crisis with Saudi Crown Prince; Kingdom Pledges $40 Million for UNRWA
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday to discuss the urgent need for civilian protection and humanitarian assistance in the ongoing Gaza conflict. The meeting is part of Blinken’s regional tour which will include Egypt and Israel, as the U.S. hopes to to expedite efforts towards a ceasefire after nearly six months of warfare. Meanwhile, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre has pledged $40 million to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees, specifically aimed at aiding Gaza.
  2. Red Sea Security Incidents Surge by 475% Following Houthi Attacks
    British data reveals a 475% increase in maritime security incidents in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since the onset of Houthi attacks from Yemen. This escalation, described as unprecedented, has significantly disrupted shipping routes and fuel consumption, with vessels now navigating longer distances to avoid conflict zones, leading to a notable rise in operational costs and adjustments in global trade flows.
  3. Government of Yemen Seeks UN Help to Prevent Environmental Disaster from “Rubymar” Sinking
    The sinking of the British ship “Rubymar” by a Houthi missile attack in the Red Sea has not yet led to significant on the Yemeni coast but has raised concerns over a potential environmental disaster. The internationally recognized Yemen government has requested UN assistance and funding for a rescue plan to mitigate enviromental impact, especially for local fishermen. The International Maritime Organization halted efforts to limit damage due to security risks from Houthi attacks. Despite rough seas hindering access, satellite imagery showed a large oil slick, though no coastal pollution has been recorded yet. Yemen’s government is calling for urgent financial, technical, and logistical support to handle the sunken ship’s cargo of fertilizers and fuel.

March 25, 2024

  1. Houthi Threat Leads Gulf States to Reevaluate Their Dependence on Russia and China for Security
    The agreement between Russia, China, and the Houthi rebels ensuring safe passage for their ships in the Red Sea, raises doubts about the reliability of Gulf States‘ security dependence on Moscow and Beijing. This move by China and Russia, perceived as prioritizing their own interests, comes as Gulf countries has been seeking to diversify security partnerships beyond the West. 
  2. Hyundai and Red Sea International Announce Collaboration
    Hyundai Motor Group, a leading South Korean automotive manufacturer, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Company to explore future transportation solutions in Saudi tourist and resort areas. This partnership will focus on testing Hyundai’s electric and hydrogen vehicles within the Red Sea and AMAALA eco-friendly resorts, developed by Red Sea International, owned by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund. The collaboration also aims to introduce advanced aerial transportation and autonomous vehicles.
  3. UN Plans to Address Red Sea Shipwreck Crisis
    The United Nations has unveiled a plan to manage the environmental disaster posed by the sinking of the “Rubimar” ship in the Red Sea, carrying 21,000 metric tons of chemical fertilizers. The plan involves a detailed technical analysis and the potential deployment of a submarine drone to assess the situation. This initiative comes amid growing concerns about the impact on the marine ecosystem, including possible extensive coral reef damage and fish populations, following the ship’s sinking off Yemen’s coast after being hit by Houthi missiles.
  4. Houthis Warn Saudi Arabia not to Allow US Use of Saudi Airspace
    Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior member of Sana’a’s political council, revealed a warning sent to Saudi Arabia cautioning against allowing US air forces to use Saudi territory or airspace in attacks on Yemen. This comes against a backdrop of reduced escalation rather than a ceasefire between Sana’a and Riyadh, with humanitarian issues prioritized in talks. Al-Houthi criticized the recent US-UK military actions against Yemen, asserting Yemen’s resilience and calling for Arab solidarity with Palestine, while offering reassurances to China and Russia regarding maritime navigation safety.
  5. Houthis Demand Arab Countries Reduce Oil Exports by Half to Force an End to Gaza War
    The Houthi group in Yemen urged Arab nations to halve their oil exports to Europe and the United States

March 26, 2024

  1. China Proposed to Connect its Belt and Road Initiative with Saudi Vision 2030
    The National Development and Reform Commission of China has declared its readiness to align the Belt and Road Initiative with Saudi Vision 2030, signaling support for cooperation between Saudi and Chinese companies in the energy sector. In a meeting with Aramco CEO Amin Nasser, Zheng Shanjie, the head of China’s top economic planning body, welcomed Saudi investments in China, emphasizing the continuous liberalization of China’s economy to boost foreign investments. This commitment includes enhancing the bilateral strategic partnership and exploring new investment opportunities, aiming for mutual benefits and shared ambitions in the chemical industry and renewable energy sources.
  2. Qatar Leads Gulf-UN Meeting on UNRWA Review
    Qatar chaired a meeting between the permanent representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries at the United Nations and the head of the group responsible for the independent review of UNRWA’s operations. Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani, Qatar’s permanent representative to the UN, emphasized the GCC’s support for UNRWA and its critical humanitarian role for Palestinian refugees. The meeting focused on the preliminary results of the independent review, with a commitment to supporting UNRWA’s mission during the ongoing conflict.
  3. Houthi Leader Urges Saudi-Led Coalition to Embrace Peace Plan
    Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, has called on the Saudi-led coalition to advance towards sustainable peace by signing and implementing the peace roadmap agreed upon with Riyadh. On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the “Operation Decisive Storm” military campaign, al-Mashat reaffirmed the Houthi commitment to peace, assuring that Yemen poses no threat to any nation. He emphasized celebrating the day not as a mark of war but as a symbol of defense and the resilience of the Yemeni people.

March 27, 2024

  1. GCC Calls for Complete International Recognition of Palestine
    The Gulf Cooperation Council urged global recognition of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, seeking urgent collective action for a permanent resolution. This call, articulated by Qatar’s UN delegate on behalf of the council, coincides with the Security Council’s vote on a ceasefire in Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing aggression, emphasizing the necessity for immediate humanitarian aid delivery without political manipulation. The council also highlighted the exacerbating hunger crisis and Israel’s legal accountability for civilian attacks, framing Israeli actions as part of a larger colonial settlement project against the Palestinian people.
  2. Houthis Launch Six Attacks Against US and UK Ships
    The Iranian-backed Houthis announced six military operations in 72 hours targeting American and British ships using drones and missiles. The operations focused on vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, marking an escalation in the Houthis’ maritime attacks. The attacks have expanded in scope since November to include the Indian Ocean, reflecting a broadened strategy against international shipping linked to Israel, the US, and the UK.
  3. Houthi and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Secret Meeting Reveals New Maritime Tactics
    A local news outlet reported that at a covert gathering in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, Houthi leadership and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard discussed plans for increased military actions in the Red and Arabian Seas, including reconnaissance, mining, and armed harassment of naval vessels. The meeting, led by a Houthi commander known as “Abu Sajad,” also outlined strategies involving the use of civilian fishermen as human shields. The meeting underlines the direct involvement of Iranian regime officials in these operations.
  4. Houthis Target UAE Military Base with Missiles
    Military sources from Sanaa confirmed a missile attack on a UAE-American military base on Yemen’s Zuqar Island, controlled by the Saudi-Emirati coalition in the Red Sea. The operation, yet to be officially announced by the Houthi Defense Ministry, marks an escalation in the conflict, with British maritime security firm Ambrey reporting explosions in the area. The attack came at the same time that Houthi-affiliated media claimed American-British strikes in the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa.

March 28, 2024

  1. UAE and Egypt Conduct Largest Airborne Aid Drop to Gaza
    In collaboration with the Egyptian military, the UAE’s Ministry of Defense announced the largest airborne operation thus far, delivering 90 tons of aid to Gaza. This significant effort involved three aircraft targeting hard-to-reach areas in northern Gaza, marking the 16th drop and bringing the UAE’s total contributions to 664 tons. Additionally, joint operations with Jordanian forces extended the support operation even further.
  2. Gulf States Support UNRWA with $85 Million
    To avert a potential collapse of the agency, three Gulf countries have collectively donated $85 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in response to halted funding from the US and several European nations following Israeli allegations. The Saudi commitment of $40 million marks the largest individual contribution, with Qatar and the UAE providing $25 million and $20 million, respectively. These donations aim to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and support UNRWA’s role in providing aid to Palestinian refugees.
  3. Saudi Arabia’s FDI Surpasses $3.4 Billion in Q4 2023
    Saudi Arabia experienced a significant increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the fourth quarter of 2023, reaching over 13 billion riyals ($3.4 billion), marking a growth of more than 16% compared to the third quarter. The total inward FDI for Q4 stood at approximately 19 billion riyals ($5 billion), reflecting the Kingdom’s growing appeal to international investors.
  4. US Fleet Commander Reports US-UK Strikes Have Reduced Houthi Capabilities
    Recent U.S. and British airstrikes have hit Houthi positions in Saada, Yemen, with the US Red Sea fleet commander reporting significant degradation of Houthi capabilities. Despite ongoing efforts and unpredictable timelines due to Iranian support for the Houthis, there’s a notable shift in Houthi attacks from cruise missiles to less dangerous drones.
  5. U.S. is Pursuing Iranian Commander Behind Houthi Maritime Attacks
    Iranian commander Abdolreza Shahlai, who is allegedly orchestrating the Houthis’ maritime assaults from Yemen, remains a key figure targeted by the U.S. with a $15 million bounty for information. Shahlai is the same IRGC commander who plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in 2011. He has served as the lead IRGC representative to the Houthis for at least a decade.
  6. Houthis Challenge Global Powers in Red Sea, Bloomberg Reports
    Despite significant military efforts by the United States and its allies, the Houthis have managed to continue their high-intensity attacks in the Red Sea, showcasing an unprecedented resilience. Bloomberg highlights the Houthis’ capability to maintain their assault pace for an extended period, despite the costly and yet ineffective countermeasures by Western powers, underlining a significant setback in the Biden administration’s strategy to limit regional conflict escalation.

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