Attacks on shipping in the Red Sea need a stronger response than just a few warships shooting things down, retired US Navy SEAL officer warns

  • The attacks by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea can't continue, a retired US Navy SEAL officer said.

  • The attacks have wreaked havoc on global trade, and the international response hasn't been enough.

  • "We just can't keep shooting things down," he said.

Attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels on shipping vessels in the Red Sea can't keep going unchecked, a retired US Navy SEAL officer told Business Insider, arguing it isn't enough to just shoot things out of the sky.

The US and its allies have been shooting down drones and missiles, but it's not a long-term solution, Brian Raymond, the retired SEAL and an international security expert, said in an interview on Wednesday.

"When does this get addressed in a meaningful manner? We just can't keep shooting things down that come off the eastern or the western side of Yemen," said Raymond, a former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer, warning that "eventually something is going to happen that's much more catastrophic."

In recent months, Houthi rebels have been targeting commercial and merchant vessels in the vital Red Sea waterway and disrupting global trade.

The Houthis have said the attacks are in retaliation for Israel's bombardment of Gaza in response to Hamas terror attacks on October 7.

The militant group has vowed to continue targeting any ships associated with or even sailing toward Israel in a show of support for Hamas, which is another Iran-backed militant group that is part of the so-called "axis of resistance."

Since November 18, there have been 25 attacks, according to US Naval Forces Central Command leadership.

The US, as well as its allies, have been working to fend off these attacks and have repeatedly shot down drones and missiles launched by the Houthis. The US Navy, in particular, has tackled the threats, with the destroyer USS Carney acting as a stand-out military asset in the fight.

These defensive measures are being executed as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, which NAVCENT commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said Thursday has brought together "the largest surface and air presence in the southern Red Sea in years."

The operation was launched in mid-December in response to an "escalation in reckless Houthi attacks."

Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) stand watch in the ship's Combat Information Center during an operation to defeat a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, Oct. 19.
Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) stand watch in the ship's Combat Information Center during an operation to defeat a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, Oct. 19.US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau

Just a 'Band-Aid in the near-term'

But this strategy is just a "Band-Aid" to an escalating problem, said Raymond, the executive vice president of client risk management at international security firm Global Guardian.

"It is a Band-Aid in the near-term, but we as the US and other responsible nations in the world and in that region, we're forced to engage on this. We're protecting merchant vessels from basically unwanted aggression," said Raymond, who has previously worked and lived in Yemen.

However, "it's not a long-term fix" and there must be a stronger, unified global effort aimed at putting a stop to these attacks, said Raymond.

"It can't just be seen as the US out there doing all of this," Raymond said, referring to the American-led efforts. "It's really important that there has to be a larger engagement. I mean, everyone's saying the right things, it appears, on the periphery of the conversation, but nothing's happening … They're still attacking ships."

Additionally, said Raymond, "There has to be other negotiations in that region to sort of tamp down this activity."

"This is escalating in the wrong direction," he said.

The US military said that on Sunday US Navy helicopters sank three small Houthi boats, killing all on board after the rebels attacked the Maersk Hangzhou container ship in the Red Sea and tried to get on board.

The attack prompted shipping giant Maersk to halt shipping operations through the Red Sea for a period. Other major shipping companies have also stopped sailing through the crucial waterway because of the ongoing attacks, hampering international trade.

"It's just not the maritime domain that's being affected. The entire region is being affected now," Raymond said, explaining that the Houthi attacks are "having a multi-tiered effect in the region for security and safety."

On Wednesday, the US and the governments of 11 other countries — Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — put out a joint statement calling for a stop to the attacks and warning that the Houthis "will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region's critical waterways."

"Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing," the statement read, stressing that "we remain committed to the international rules-based order and are determined to hold malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks."

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