Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

The Middle East Conflict That the U.S. Can't Stay Out Of

| Dec. 24, 2023

An Iranian-backed group is attacking an essential shipping route through the Suez Canal. The U.S. will have to step in.

The sooner President Joe Biden acknowledges that Americans will likely be drawn into a fight to protect shipping traffic through the Suez Canal, the more time the U.S. military has to plan, and the less severe the harm will be to the global economy. For months, ever since a deadly Hamas incursion into Israel triggered a massive Israeli military campaign in Gaza, the United States has sought to deter Israel's enemies, most notably Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, from spreading the conflict to other fronts in the Middle East.

The administration's fears are warranted but also moot. The war is already expanding in a way that endangers the global economy—specifically, through attacks by Iranian-backed forces on the crucial shipping lane from the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. Whereas the U.S. military need not play any substantial role in the war in Israel and Gaza, keeping the path to Suez open and safe is a global priority, and no other country can lead that effort.

Late last month, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in northern Yemen began targeting commercial ships in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which connects the southern end of the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. The Houthis claim that they are doing it to support the Palestinians as Israel and Hamas wage war. The Houthis' first target was the Galaxy Leader, a Japanese-operated cargo ship reportedly owned in part by an Israeli investor. The attackers were able to capture the vessel....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“The Middle East Conflict That the U.S. Can't Stay Out Of.” The Atlantic, December 24, 2023.

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