Home Analysis Observations of an Expat: Escalation

Observations of an Expat: Escalation

Observations of an Expat: Escalation
US War Ship to respond attacks on ships in Red Sea - Photo: Axios

The world’s nightmare—escalation of the Middle East crisis—is moving rapidly towards reality.

By Tom Arms

The world’s nightmare—escalation of the Middle East crisis—is moving rapidly towards reality.

Pushing the region to the edge are Israel’s Likud government and Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis.

As of this Friday the death toll in Gaza—according to UN figures—was 23,357. Another 59,410 have been wounded. Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to discuss a ceasefire.

Britain and America publicly back him because they are afraid of losing what little leverage they have. Privately they want a ceasefire; Netanyahu out and talks for a two-state solution.

Meanwhile, 16 missile and drone launch sites have been attacked by British and American ships and planes. They are backed up by an alliance of 42 partner nations dubbed “Operation Prosperity Guardian.”

The Anglo-American attacks were in response to Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea– one of the world’s arterial waterways. The Houthi’s say their attacks were in support of demands for a ceasefire in Gaza. Both sides have warned of more to come.

Britain and America publicly back him because they are afraid of losing what little leverage they have. Privately they want a ceasefire; Netanyahu out and talks for a two-state solution

The Houthis are one of three Iranian proxies/allies in the region. Like the other two—Hezbollah and Hamas—they are armed to the teeth non-state actors. This means that their best means of influence is through armed disruption.

They started their latest offensive with missile and drone attacks on targets inside Israel less than a week after the Hamas attack on 7 October.  The attacks failed. Israel’s air defenses are too good.

So, the Houthis turned their attention to Red Sea shipping. They would hit Israel and its Western backers where it really hurt—in their pocketbooks.

Since November, the Houthis have carried out 27 attacks on Red Sea shipping. Some 12 per cent of the world’s trade—including giant oil tankers and container ships—passes under the gaze of Houthi guns through the Red and Arabian Sea. Nearly a quarter of them have been diverted around the Cape of Good Hope. This significantly increasing costs at a time when Europe, America and Japan are still reeling from the economic effects of the Ukraine War, the covid pandemic and the 2008-2009 banking crisis.

The Houthi attacks have been condemned by the UN Security Council. China and Russia refused to use their veto to block the anti-Houthi resolution, although they did abstain.

Conspicuous by their absence from Operation Prosperity Guardian are key Arab states. Tiny Bahrain is present but Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates remain aloof. Their governments privately—and quietly—support the Anglo-American attacks, but publicly are saying little or nothing.

This is because public opinion in the Arab world is solidly behind the Houthis. They are seen as the current number one champions of the Palestinian cause. In the eyes of many in the Arab world, an attack on the Houthis, is an attack on the oppressed Palestinians.

Arab public opinion is not the only problem facing the Western alliance. There is also the little issue of money. Defense budgets worldwide are stretched and the British and major EU economies are flat lining. To fire one missile from a ship or jet costs $1.5 million per pop.

Also read: Observations of an Expat: Who are the Houthis?

In contrast, the average cost of an Iranian-made Houthi drone is $16,000. A single drone is easily identified and knocked out, but the Houthis have developed swarm tactics of about ten drones per attack. This pushes the cost up to $160,000 but that is still a tenth of the cost to the US and Royal navies and the Iranians seem prepared to provide an inexhaustible supply.

Houthis also have the advantage of firing from land bases. This enables them to move and camouflage their attack platforms and storage facilities all around Yemen’s mountainous countryside. It is a strategy that they have employed successful in the civil war of the past eight years.

2023-10-17T065735Z_1792802358_RC24U3A2P7NH_RTRMADP_3_ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-1697538665Read more: Observations of an Expat: Worst and Much, Much Worse

But what will the Iranians do? So far they have heeded President Biden’s warning to stay out of the conflict.  But they are supplying the Houthis and have parked a surveillance ship at the entrance to the Red Sea to provide intelligence on ship movements.

After Friday’s Anglo-American attacks on Yemen, an Iranian spokesman said they would fuel “insecurity and instability” in the region.

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While NATO and its partners pull together to protect world shipping it has emerged that ex-president Donald Trump has been doing his best to pull the Western Alliance apart.

According to French EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is responsible for EU defense issues, Trump told commission president Ursula von der Leyen that NATO is dead and that America would refuse to defend Europe.

M. Breton, told the European Parliament this week, that the threat was issued in 2020 during a private bilateral at the World Economic Forum between Trump and Ms. Van der Leyen.

According to Breton, Trump told the commission president: “You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and support you. NATO is dead, and we will leave. We will quit NATO.”

Trump then made reference to van Der Leyen’s previous job as German Defense Minister and added: “By the way, you owe me $400 billion because you didn’t pay. You Germans, you had to pay for defense.”

Trump is odds-on favorite to win Monday’s Iowa caucus for the Republican nomination.


Israel was the first to sign the 1948 Convention on Genocide. This is not surprising as the international law was a direct result of the horrors of The Holocaust.

This week, however, the Israeli government is appearing before the International Court of Justice at The Hague charged with the same crime that they levelled against Hitler.

The case is being brought by South Africa’s ANC government. It should be noted that there is little love between the ANC and Israel.

There is historic animosity between Jewish state and the ANC. Israel provided South African Whites with nuclear weapons technology and Mossad and the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) regularly exchanged information. Many South Africans also believe that the Likud government’s policies on the West Bank and Gaza are at least partially modelled on the Bantustans and pass laws of the apartheid era.

Israel provided South African Whites with nuclear weapons technology and Mossad and the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) regularly exchanged information

So, it is unsurprising that the South African government took the lead this week in pursuing a charge of “genocide” in the International Court of Justice in relation to Israel’s attack on Gaza. They claim that Israeli attacks and blockades that have so far cost 23,357 lives qualify as genocide under the 1948 convention that Israel was so keen to sign.

The lead lawyer, Adila Hassian, told the 17 judges of the ICJ that Israel’s actions show “chilling” and “incontrovertible” intent to commit genocide.

At the end of the first day of a two-day hearing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted: “We are fighting terrorists. We are fighting lies. Today we saw an upside down world. Israel Is accused of genocide while it is fighting against genocide.”

The 1948 convention states that “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is genocide. It further states that acts of genocide include: “killing members of the group; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; imposing living conditions intended to destroy the group; preventing births and forcibly transferring children of the group.”

Usually the ICJ takes months to make a ruling. But South Africa has asked for an interim ruling which means that a decision may be published as early as next week.

ICJ rulings are final. There is no appeal. But they are not enforceable. Russia, for instance, was recently branded guilty of genocide in Ukraine. Putin ignored it. If the court rules against Israel Netanyahu will likely do the same. But Israel’s democratic mantle will be severely damaged.


Ecuador was South America’s oasis of peace. After this week’s state of emergency it can no longer claim the title.

It started when notorious drug kingpin Aolfo “Fito” Macias escaped from prison while being transferred. He had been serving 34 years for murder and drug trafficking.

Macias is leader of the drug cartel Los Choneros which has linked to the drug trafficking networks in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.  The gang members are scattered throughout Ecuador’s streets and prison system. As soon as they learned of Macias’s escape the prisoners started to riot in support of their leader and the gang members at large started attacking police stations.

Three thousand police and military personnel have been deployed to find Macias and crackdown on the gang violence. President Daniel Naboa has named 22 gangs as terrorists.

Gang violence in Central and South America is one of the main reasons given by asylum seekers flooding across America’s southern border. The problems in Ecuador add to the problems on the US southern border which in turn adds to the problems of the Biden Administration. And because House Republicans are trying aid to Ukraine to a crackdown on immigration, Ecuador’s problems impact on Europe and the rest of the world.


Europe’s millennial and Generation Z have a new pin-up—Gabriel Attal who this week was appointed Prime Minister of France.

The younger political generation has complained loudly at the baby boomers are clinging to power. Biden is 81, Trump 77, Putin 71, Olof Scholz 65, to name and age just a few.

Well now they have a fresh young 34-year-old face In the Hotel Matignon and at President Emmanuel Macron’s right-hand. And he ticks another woke box as France’s first openly gay prime minister.

Attal replaces wrinkled 60-year-old Elisabeth Borne, who had made herself unpopular pushing through Macron’s increase in the pension age.

The new prime minister has his political roots in the Centre-left of Macron’s En Marche. But like Macron he bends with the political wind and at the moment that means shifting to the right of the political spectrum. In his last post—education minister—he won praise for banning girls from wearing the Muslim abaya in French classrooms.

This shift to the right could be interpreted as Macron’s answer to Marine Le Pen’s continuing lead in French polls. Macron is especially worried about the European Parliamentary elections in June.

But the problem Macron faces is that the electorate will view the appointment of Attal is mere window dressing.


Meanwhile, across the border in Germany, a new political party has emerged which claims to be on both the left and right wing of the political spectrum.

The party was launched this week by 54-year-old Sahra Wagenknecht. Not one to hide her light, Ms. Wagenknecht has called the party the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance for Reason and Fairness, or BSW for short.

Ms. Wagenknecht was born and raised in East Germany and joined the communist SED shortly before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. In post-Cold War reunified Germany she joined the left-wing Der Linke Party.

Ms. Wagenknecht says her new party will be left-wing on economic issues and right-wing on social issues. This translates as spending more and stopping immigrants.

Ms. Wagenknecht is well-known and personally popular with German voters, especially those in the former East Germany. At the moment she has only ten seats in the Bundestag, but German political pundits believe that she could soon start pulling votes away from the far-right Afd (Alternative for Deutschland).


Tom Arms Journalist Sindh CourierTom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice. He is also the author of America Made in Britain and the Encyclopaedia of the Cold and co-hosts the world affairs podcast “TransAtlantic Riff.” https://open.spotify.com/show/3ntjretAKNLZNFpA5ZEGDG



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