(WATCH) Rising Tensions


The war triggered by the Hamas Islamic terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7 is sending tremors of expanding terrorism across the Mideast. The threat of a regional war is said to be growing. Scott Thuman speaks with an expert who says Oct. 7 was just the beginning.

The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.

The U.S. and U.K. airstrikes in Yemen this week were the latest sign of an expanding conflict — targeting radar and air defense systems and sites for cruise missiles that were used to launch attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes over recent months.

Scott: So how alarming would you say is this increased series of attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Houthis?

Matthew Levitt: I think attacks in the Red Sea by the Houthis is extremely alarming, not only because of the massive impact it’s had on the international maritime trade, but also because the Houthis are a pretty small little group. They are not a tremendous transnational organization.

Matthew Levitt is an expert on Mideast affairs with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

He explains, based in Yemen, the Houthis have been fighting the Saudi-backed Yemeni government since 2004, in a war that has claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives. Since November, the group has turned its attention to commercial ships using the vital Red Sea route to the Suez Canal. Thirty percent of container ship traffic normally uses these waters. Sometimes sharing videos of their attacks, the Houthis have been using missiles, drones, fast boats, and helicopters against ships.

Levitt: The Houthis became a player first in Yemen and then only later regionally.

It’s not just merchant ships that have come under attack; U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have faced more than 120 attacks in just the last three months. The U.S. responded with a rare drone strike in Baghdad this month to take out the leader of an Iranian-backed armed group.

Scott: These attacks on American soldiers and Marines and sailors, it’s happening a lot.

Levitt: There are a lot of attacks, but they haven’t killed a lot of people. The fact that this is happening doesn’t echo outside the Washington, D.C. beltway until Americans have been killed or injured.

Escalating attacks and tensions on the border between Israel and Lebanon are ratcheting up at the same time. Last week, an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon killed a senior Hezbollah leader.

Levitt: So, Hamas does something in Gaza. Hezbollah starts firing from Lebanon. The Houthis start interfering with international shipping in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. You have the Shia militias harassing the U.S. and other forces and bases in Syria and Iraq. This was the plan.

Scott: Whose plan?

Levitt: Iran planned for a time when their proxies could do things in a somewhat coordinated way. What it means is that if you see that I’ve carried out an attack, you are prepared to do something as well. So, Hezbollah starts firing rockets into northern Israel, not only to harass them, but to draw forces from the south to the north. The Houthis start firing missiles into the Red Sea, interrupting international shipping, raiding ships, costing the international economy a tremendous amount of money, and saying it’s because of Israel. That was the plan. Not a plan for a particular operation, but for a day when everybody would know that everybody had some role to play.

Scott: I’m hearing this phrase, “the axis of resistance.”

Levitt: The phrase “axis of resistance” is the phrase that the Iranians use to refer to what we often describe as the “Iran threat network.” Their axis of resistance, or Moqavemah, as they put it in Arabic, is Iran, it’s Hezbollah, it’s Hamas, it’s the Houthis. It’s the various Shia militias in Iraq. That’s what we’re seeing right now. And so, if you’re Iran, you’re actually quite pleased with what’s happening.

Scott: What happens if Iran decides to stop just supporting its proxies and get its own hands dirty?

Levitt: The Iranians have a track record of not getting their hands dirty, the bottom line is Iran has a very strong track record of fighting to the last Arab. It wants others to fight its wars for it.

But if the West decides to strike at the nation that’s been guiding and funding groups behind the attacks, that could change overnight.

Levitt: If Iran is attacked at home, it will get in the fight. No question.

A critical line that, if crossed, could elevate a regional war to a world one.

For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Washington.

Watch video here.

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1 thought on “(WATCH) Rising Tensions”

  1. End foreign wars and support for ongoing wars in the ME. The Houthis said they supported the Palestinians because they themselves suffered terribly under Saudi bombardment that caused death, starvation and disease. Like in Gaza. Americans need to remember the caution against entangling alliances…

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