Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defends UK joining U.S. led strikes on Houthis

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Parliament the United Kingdom strikes on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, conducted alongside the U.S., were “limited, not escalatory.”

In a move that has sparked controversy and raised questions about the foreign policy of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the decision for the UK to join the United States in what has been termed as ‘limited’ military strikes on Yemen’s Houthi rebels. On Monday Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Parliament the United Kingdom strikes on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, conducted alongside the U.S., were “limited, not escalatory” and it came in response to a threat to the British vessels. The British lawmakers did not get a say on the taken military action regarding which Britain’s Prime Minister faced questions.

The US-led strikes on the sites used by the Iran–backed rebels, included Four Royal Air Force Typhoon jets, last week. Friday’s strikes hit Houthi weapons depots, radar facilities, and command centres, says the United States. Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the lawmakers that the British jets attacked launch sites for drones and ballistic missiles and that the UK’s first assessment was that all 13 targets that were planned, have been destroyed without any civilian casualties. Prime Minister Sunak also emphasized by saying that the actual aim was to “degrade and disrupt” the ability of the Houthis to launch attacks.

A missile struck a US-owned cargo ship on Monday, just off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden. For this attack, the United States held the Houthis responsible, as it came less than a day after an anti-ship cruise missile was fired toward an American destroyer by the Houthis in the Red Sea.

Concerning the British involvement, Prime Minister Sunak expressed that it had been planned as a limited, singular action, and the hope was for the Houthis to step back and cease their destabilizing attacks. He even added by saying, “We will not hesitate to protect our security, our people, and our interests where required.” The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer said that he supported the strikes last week, but expects more openness from the government shortly. He additionally mentioned that if the government is suggesting additional measures, it should clearly state its intentions and present the rationale. He emphasized the need to evaluate such proposals on a case-by-case basis, taking into account their merits. Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, on Monday in his speech on the defence policy of the United Kingdom said that the threats from autocratic states and non-state militant groups endangered “tearing apart the rules-based international order established to keep the peace after the Second World War.”

Shapps conveyed the encouragement for NATO allies to increase defence spending, asserting the end of the “peace dividend” era and a shift from a post-war to a pre-war world. In response to allegations from the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats accusing him of bypassing a democratic convention where Parliament should have a say in military actions, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak argued that it had been necessary to act swiftly to safeguard the security of these operations, thus precluding the possibility of consulting Parliament.