In US Middle East policy — as terrible as Israel’s war against Gaza is right now — there isn’t a more urgent priority than addressing the threat posed by the Houthis to maritime security.

This Iran-backed rebel group, which the world has chosen to ignore since the cessation of hostilities in Yemen’s civil war in April 2022 despite it still being a menace to regional security, has managed to challenge a core and enduring US interest in the region – freedom of commerce and navigation.

Now, the question is: how should Washington respond to the Houthis’ attacks against commercial ships in the Red Sea?

I will lay out four options, some of which may not be mutually exclusive. I will list them in accordance with their position on the escalation ladder, starting with the least escalatory to the most. I will also assess their pros, cons, and probabilities.

Lastly, I will advocate for what I judge to be the least costly and possibly most effective option should the Houthis continue with their attacks – striking Houthi military targets inside Yemen.


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Photo by UK Ministry of Defence/Anadolu via Getty Images

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