January 17 MENA Update

This update covers the current geopolitical situation in the Middle East, particularly focusing on the conflict involving the United States, Iran, and its allies, including the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Biden administration is concerned about escalating the conflict in the region, particularly in Gaza and the escalating use of proxies by Iran, especially as regional opinion shifts against the US.  As a result, the U.S. Navy has adopted a defensive posture in the area, aiming to protect commercial shipping from Houthi drone and missile attacks. This policy is reflected in the recent announcement of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multilateral effort to protect commercial shipping.

The U.S. has carried out another round of strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, marking the fourth such action in less than a week. The U.S. used Tomahawk missiles to target approximately 14 Houthi missile launchers used to attack international shipping lanes. These strikes will not necessarily deter the Houthis or other members of the “axis of resistance,” which includes Iran, Hezbollah, and other regional allies. These groups are consolidating an alliance of forces across the region, presenting a direct challenge to the regional order that the West has created and defended in the Middle East for decades. The formation of this axis also presents a threat to global trade and energy supplies.

Evidence suggests that the U.S. cannot defeat these powers, as they are winning the social media war and popular opposition favors Iran and its allies. The “axis of resistance” is using social media to control the narrative of the conflict, gaining popularity across the region and globally.