Al-Houthi and the Red Sea shipping quandary: Strategic positioning or deliberate intent?

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This article is featured in Orient III/2024.

The Houthi movement’s ascendancy in Yemen, particularly their control and disruptive potential over key areas proximate to vital maritime routes along the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, continues to generate growing concerns for the security of global trade and commerce. However, it is crucial to discern between their strategic activities against Israeli-linked interests, and a deliberate intent to disrupt the main artery for Asia-Europe maritime trade. Indeed, their rise to power altered Yemen’s geopolitical landscape and as a corollary presented them with an opportunity, rather than a predetermined agenda, to threaten the flow of these crucial shipping channels. This article argues that a nuanced understanding of their motivations would place their actions as aligned with a calculated approach to regional realpolitik rather than indiscriminate disruption.

Mohammad I. Aslam is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (GB) and an associate fellow at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, King’s College London. He holds a PhD in International Relations from King’s College London, has been a contributing editor for the Montreal Review Journal, a featured writer at Foreign Policy Journal and both a PhD forum facilitator as well as graduate teaching assistant for his department. His primary research interests span various aspects within the realm of security studies. In particular, and following on from his doctoral research, this is in the context of exploring the nexus between Islamist politico-military actors across the Middle East and their relationship with state authority, regional alliances and security provisions in the interests of communal resilience and resistance.

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