(CNN) US intelligence assesses Houthis in Yemen in talks to provide weapons to al-Shabaab in Somalia, officials say

(CNN) US intelligence assesses Houthis in Yemen in talks to provide weapons to al-Shabaab in Somalia, officials say.  Quoting,

The intelligence raises the alarming possibility that a marriage of convenience could make things worse both in Somalia and in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where the Houthis have launched regular attacks on commercial shipping and US military assets since the war in Gaza began.

A specific motive was anticipated in US official: Iran has moved missiles to Persian Gulf. Quoting,

Where could missiles be emplaced and launched in a deniable way? A locale must be lawless, buyable, and deniable. It must adjoin the Red Sea,  which must be transited by the U.S. forces that use the Suez Canal. Lawless locations are implied by pirate activity. Most of the pirate havens have been cleaned out. Pirate activity  persisted in  the Galmudug region of Somalia  till at least 2017. (FP)  Somalia’s Pirates Are Back in Business. This shows what is possible. perhaps further up the coast towards Bab el Mandeb.

Eritrea, inside the Red Sea, above and adjacent to the strait Bab el Mandeb, is geographically perfect.  The Eritrean Islamic Jihad implies contested territory that Iran could rent for missile emplacements, which can be effectively camouflaged.

With missile emplacements on both shores of the Red Sea, the Houthis might hope for absolute interdiction  of maritime traffic. Quoting from CNN,

A potential deal could offer a new stream of financing for the Houthis, at a time when US officials say there are signs that the group’s primary patron, Iran, has some concerns about the group’s attack strategy. “Being able to sell some weapons would bring them much needed income,” the senior administration official said.

Highlighting the emergence of the Houthis as an independent actor, there are multiple hazards for Iran:

  • The ejection of French influence and Western militaries  from the Sahel was accompanied  by the substitution of Russian influence and mercenaries, considered more effective by the current crop of despots against Al-Shabaab. The Russians, allies of  Iran, are likely victims of Houthi weapon sales.
  • The effective closure of the Red Sea would be unacceptable to what used to be called the Third World.
  • The likely result of Houthi success would be a broader and more effective sanctions regime against Iran, which would indirectly diminish the Houthis and inconvenience major trading partner Russia.

In consequence, the Houthi problem will fester, going up, down, and sideways. It might motivate the West to empower ECOWAS.