The Houthi rebels in Yemen have threatened to sabotage undersea communication cables in the Red Sea, a move that could disrupt internet connectivity between Asia and Europe. This threat comes as part of their retaliation against the West for US-led airstrikes on their missile and drone launch sites. The airstrikes were a response to over 30 Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, which the Houthis claim are in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
The threat was communicated via a Houthi-linked channel on the Telegram messaging app, where a map showing undersea cable routes in the Red Sea was posted. The Houthis, who seized control of much of Yemen in 2014, have access to maps showing the location of these cables, which run past their coastline through the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
However, experts believe it would be challenging for the Houthis to carry out this threat, as the cables lie hundreds of meters below the surface, out of reach for divers. Cutting these cables, which carry 17% of the world’s internet traffic, would require deep-sea submersible technology and precise location capabilities, which the Houthis are not believed to possess.
Despite this, the Houthis have a powerful ally in Iran, who has helped them build a formidable arsenal of missiles and drones. However, it is unlikely that Iran would risk escalating tensions by enabling the Houthis to cut the undersea cables. Such an act could lead to retaliatory strikes on Iran itself.
In conclusion, while the Houthi threat is concerning, it is considered technically challenging and politically risky. Despite facing intensive airstrikes from a Saudi-led coalition and repeated US-led attacks on their bases, the Houthis continue to resist and remain a significant force in the region.