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The Somerset Guardian, 17th January 2024

The United Kingdom’s (UK) involvement with the Red Sea is a long and historic one. Even as far back as the mid 19th century the Royal Navy established a Red Sea formation, subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, thus establishing our responsibility for keeping peace in the area and the sea lanes open.

As readers will be aware, the United States of America (US) and the UK initiated air and naval strikes on Houthi sites in Yemen this week in response to its ongoing attacks on Red Sea shipping.

Since November 2023, the Houthis have been launching attacks against ships that it claims are linked to Israel, causing them to be diverted away from the Red Sea and threatening trade and freedom of navigation.

The Houthis are one of several Iran-aligned armed groups in the Middle East, which also include Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia militias in Iraq, who have been conducting attacks against Israel, Israeli-linked ships, and US forces and military bases since the Hamas assault on Israel on 7th October 2023.

The January 2024 strikes followed warnings by the UK Defence Secretary that the UK was prepared to use military force to stop the Houthi attacks and a UN Security Council Resolution demanding a halt to them.  The four legal grounds cited were: continuing Houthi attacks, including against the Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond; identification of targets which were “proportionate” to deter further attacks; force being used in self-defence to deal with “an actual or imminent armed attack” and that the Government would inform the UN Security Council of its actions in self-defence.

It is rare for such important matters of state not to be debated in Parliament. However, whilst this scrutiny normally serves to hold the government to account, the decision to use force must be one for the Cabinet.  Deciding to use force is not easy and I am, therefore, confident that these difficult choices were made to protect both our national security and interests and stamp out the threat being posed globally by these undemocratic, relentless terrorist organisations.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance:

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