UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has defended US-UK strikes against the Houthis, which was carried out without parliament’s approval.
This came as he delivered a statement in the House of Commons on the air strikes.
The British government said that there was no time to have a session in parliament to debate the strikes before they were conducted and, therefore, Sunak’s comments on Monday, January 15, 2024, are his first to parliament explaining why the UK participated.
Sunak stated that the Houthis attacked British and American warships on January 9, 2024, after other attacks on commercial shipping.
He called it “the biggest attack on the Royal Navy for decades.”
Sunak said that the the UK, with the US, retaliated in self-defence, and to uphold freedom of navigation, as Britain has always done.
“I do not take decisions on the use of force lightly. That is why I stress that this action was taken in self-defence. It was limited, not escalatory. It was a necessary and proportionate response to a direct threat to UK vessels and therefore to the UK itself.”Rishi Sunak
Sunak also said that the initial assessment is that all 13 targets of the airstrikes were successfully hit, adding that there is no evidence of civilian casualties.
“Great care was taken to avoid them,” he noted.
He said that in protecting international shipping, the UK is upholding international law.
The British Prime Minister said that the Houthis’ attacks on international shipping have put innocent lives at risk, pushing up prices, and reducing consumers’ access to vital goods.
It is said that the Houthis have held one crew hostage for almost two months and are causing growing economic disruption. Global commerce cannot operate under such conditions.
Containers and tankers are having to take a 5,000-mile detour around the Cape of Good Hope.
Moreover, Sunak said that people should not accept the “malign narrative” that this is about Israel and Gaza.
It isn’t, he said, stating that it is about protecting shipping.
“We shouldn’t fall for [the Houthis’] malign narrative that this is about Israel and Gaza. They target ships from around the world. And we continue to work towards a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza and to get more aid to civilians. We also continue to support a negotiated settlement in Yemen’s civil war.
“But I want to be very clear that this action is completely unrelated to those issues. It is a direct response to the Houthis’ attacks on international shipping.”Rishi Sunak
Houthi Stance Remains Unchanged
Meanwhile, Houthi chief Negotiator, Mohammed Abdulsalam averred that the stance of Yemen’s Houthi rebels has not changed since US-led air strikes on its positions.
“Attacks to stop Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine will continue,” Abdulsalam said.
Also, Omar Rahman, a fellow with the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, opined that one-off strikes targeting Houthi installations are not going to reduce the rebel group’s capability or deter it from attacking ships in the Red Sea .
“What the US and UK are doing is not strategically justifiable. It’s only justifiable if you look at what the Houthis are doing in the Red Sea in isolation from what’s happening in Gaza and in the rest of the region,” he stressed.
“The US and UK are ignoring the source of the crisis, which is the genocide in Gaza, but they’re also enabling it,” Rahman stated.
He added, “They’re trying to prevent a wider regional escalation by taking military action against the flashpoints that are occurring as a result of what’s happening in Gaza.”