Hitting the Houthis at Home

Happy Monday! If the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions had lost yesterday, this is where we would have inserted a joke mocking them mercilessly. Since they both won, we will simply pretend the games never happened.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The U.S. launched an additional strike against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen overnight Friday, targeting a Houthi-controlled radar site. The missile strike conducted by the USS Carney—which followed a substantial attack led by the U.S. and U.K. on Houthi targets overnight Thursday—was “designed to degrade [the Houthis’] ability to attack maritime vessels, including commercial vessels” in the Red Sea, according to a statement by U.S. Central Command. The radar site was reportedly missed in the initial barrage against dozens of targets.
  • Taiwanese voters elected Lai Ching-te—the country’s current vice president and a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—in Saturday’s presidential elections, giving the DPP a third consecutive presidential term and ignoring warnings from China against elevating the more hawkish, formerly pro-Taiwanese independence candidate. Lai received 40 percent of the vote, followed by Kuomintang’s candidate, Hou Yu-ih, who earned 33 percent. When asked for his response to the election results, President Joe Biden said, “We do not support independence.” 
  • Russia launched a large missile and drone attack on Ukraine early Saturday morning, the fourth such barrage since December 29 after months of relatively few air attacks. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that it had successfully shot down eight of the some 40 missiles and drones Russia fired, also claiming that 20 “air attack weapons did not reach their targets due to extensive electronic warfare countermeasures.” Several areas in northern and eastern Ukraine felt the impacts of the attack, though the number of casualties was not clear. Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Kyiv over the weekend, signing a 10-year bilateral security deal with Ukraine formalizing cooperation in intelligence, military training, and the defense industry. Sunak also pledged $3 billion in military support to the country in 2024—Britain’s largest annual contribution since the beginning of the war almost two years ago. The package includes missiles, ammunition, and drones.
  • Germany signaled Friday that it intends to intervene in the International Court of Justice case brought by South Africa alleging Israel is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. “In view of Germany’s history and the crime against humanity of the Shoah [Holocaust], the Federal Government sees itself as particularly committed to the Convention against Genocide,” a spokesperson for the German government said on Friday. “The German government decisively and expressly rejects the accusation of genocide brought against Israel.” Germany is allowed to present arguments in the case as a third-party state under the 1948 Genocide Convention. Meanwhile, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, calling for Israel to end its operations in Gaza. Demonstrators converged on the White House, where some damaged an external, temporary fence and others attempted to scale the barrier. The Secret Service said in a statement that “the attempted gate trespass from earlier was handled without incident.” 
  • Two U.S. Navy SEALs are missing after attempting to board a vessel off the coast of Somalia on Thursday, several outlets reported over the weekend. U.S. Central Command confirmed Friday that two sailors were missing, without specifying that they were SEALs or why they had attempted to board the ship. The Associated Press reported the SEALs were engaged in an “interdiction” mission, trying to intercept weapons bound for Yemen, when one was knocked off the side of the ship by high waves and into the water—and another sailor jumped overboard in an attempt to rescue the first. Their mission was reportedly unrelated to Operation Prosperity Guardian—the ongoing multilateral maritime effort to defend the Red Sea waterway from attacks on commercial vessels by the Iran-backed Houthi militants.
  • A Pentagon spokesperson said Saturday there is not yet a date set for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after he was admitted January 1 for complications related to a surgery late last year to treat prostate cancer. President Joe Biden said Friday he still had faith in Austin’s leadership, but that the defense secretary showed a lapse in judgment in failing to notify the White House of his diagnosis and hospitalization for several days.
  • Congressional leaders reportedly agreed over the weekend to another stopgap continuing resolution (CR) to fund part of the government until March 1 and the remainder until March 8, continuing the laddered approach of the November CR that originally kept the government open until January 19 and February 2. The new measure would give lawmakers more time to pass the appropriations bills under the $1.66 trillion topline spending number for fiscal year 20024 that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Mike Johnson agreed to earlier this month. The new reported CR marks a reversal of Johnson’s comments last month that he didn’t intend to pass another short-term spending measure, but the speaker was unable to bring any appropriations bills to the floor last week after GOP hardliners voted with Democrats to shoot down a procedural vote to signal their frustration with Johnson’s spending deal.
  • A Des Moines Register poll released Saturday showed former President Donald Trump leading the Republican primary field in Iowa ahead of Monday evening’s caucuses. Trump garnered the support of 48 percent of likely caucus-goers, while former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley polled second at 20 percent, overtaking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who is now capturing 16 percent of likely caucus-goers. Haley on Sunday notched the endorsement of former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who recently stepped down from his leadership role with No Labels, an independent political organization. Meanwhile, the former president gained the support of former primary rival North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who ran against Trump in 2016. Monday’s caucuses are likely to be the coldest in the contest’s history, with the National Weather Service issuing a warning for “life-threatening wind chills” as low as minus 40 degrees in some parts of the state.
  • Hunter Biden offered on Friday to testify privately before House impeachment investigators, reversing his previous insistence that he’d only testify at a public hearing. “If you issue a new proper subpoena, now that there is a duly authorized impeachment inquiry, Mr. Biden will comply for a hearing or deposition,” Abbe Lowell, Hunter’s lawyer, said in a letter sent to House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan. The reversal comes as House Republicans have pursued a contempt of Congress resolution against Hunter for refusing to testify. Jordan and Comer said in a letter Sunday that they would issue new subpoenas but maintained that the original subpoenas “are lawful and remain legally enforceable.” 

The Coalition Strikes Back

In this handout image provided by the U.K. Ministry of Defence, an RAF Typhoon aircraft returns to berth following a strike mission on Yemen's Houthi rebels at RAF Akrotiri on January 12, 2024, in Akrotiri, Cyprus. (Photo by MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images)
In this handout image provided by the U.K. Ministry of Defence, an RAF Typhoon aircraft returns to berth following a strike mission on Yemen's Houthi rebels at RAF Akrotiri on January 12, 2024, in Akrotiri, Cyprus. (Photo by MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images)

Nearly two months after a high-stakes game of cat and mouse first erupted in the Red Sea, U.S. Central Command on Thursday said the mouse had carried out its 27th attack on international shipping lanes—despite repeated warnings from a group of 44 partner cats.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. and U.K.—supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands—had carried out successful strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. The retaliatory campaign, which was carried out with fighter jets and warship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles, followed months of attacks by the Iranian-supported militant group on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Western coalition forces continued the campaign through the weekend, ultimately striking over 20 targets, while Houthi leaders vowed a strong response. The direct multinational intervention marks a turning point in the violence in the Middle East since Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel, and highlights the growing threat presented by Iran’s proxy organizations.

“These precision strikes were intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of international mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” the coalition said in a statement released Thursday. “Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let our message be clear: we will not hesitate to defend lives and protect the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.”

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