The growing conflict in the Middle East has reached a new, dangerous level with the bombing of targets in Yemen.
By Connor Rosoman, Socialist Alternative London
60 targets in 16 locations were attacked on Friday by US and British airstrikes, in response to rocket fire by Yemen’s Houthi forces against ships in the Red Sea. This marks a significant step in the growing tensions throughout the Middle East, as the Israeli state continues its massacre against the people of Gaza.
At every stage, the fire has been stoked by the warmongering of the UK’s Conservative government, which immediately sent ships and military equipment to the Middle East, backing up, alongside the US, Netanyahu’s murderous policy. Ironically, Sunak claims these measures have been to “de-escalate tensions and restore stability to the region” – in reality the threat of the conflict spiralling into a wider war is greater than ever before.
Starmer’s Labour has disgracefully tailed the Tories at every stage, rushing to back up the Israeli state terror. While hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in Britain to demand a ceasefire, the leader of the official opposition has taken every effort to prove himself a loyal servant of the imperialist interests of the British ruling class, as he has aimed to prove himself a safe pair of hands for capitalism domestically. In response to the government’s decision to bomb Yemen, the Labour Party has offered its support yet again. Starmer told the BBC that “clearly the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have to be dealt with, their attacks on commercial shipping, attacks on important trade routes and putting civilian lives at risk and therefore, we do support this action.” Of course, Sir Keir’s concern for civilian lives seems not to extend to the 24,000+ massacred in Gaza.
Imperialism and war in the 2020s
The 2020s have been characterised by a whole series of escalating conflicts around the world, from Ukraine, to rising militarism in the South China Sea, with the threat of war in the Middle East being yet another example. For months, rocket fire and skirmishes have taken place between US-allied forces and Yemen’s Houthis, a militia backed by the Iranian Ayatollah regime.
These developments are extremely dangerous as they significantly raise the risk of further imperialist intervention and a regional war. A mass struggle that relies on the power of the Palestinian masses and the working class and poor across the region, alongside a mass solidarity movement, is much more threatening to the Israeli regime and its allies compared to endless rounds of military confrontation.
Whilst the attacks on boats by the Houthis are painted as targeting ships containing weapons to Israel, this hasn’t been the case and civilian ships have been also targeted, risking the lives of workers on board. To truly disrupt shipment of arms to the Israeli war machine, workers’ action is needed. Workers can take part in work stoppages and strikes against production of weapons and refusal to load and unload arms destined to reach the Israeli war machine.
We have previously warned that the current situation poses the risk of a conflict spreading beyond Gaza. But up to this point, the US has tried to avoid becoming embroiled in a large-scale military conflict in the Middle East once again. Likewise the Iranian regime (one of the main regional powers), while backing forces such as the Houthis and Hezbollah, has also looked to contain the crisis. They are reluctant to see the situation escalate beyond their control, and fearing the explosive political and economic effects that would come with a full-scale outbreak of war.
However, a key aspect of this age of disorder, characterised by a wider inter-imperialist conflict and geopolitical tensions, has been a logic toward further escalation in all conflicts. It is in this context that there has been a gradual, but nonetheless inexorable, trend toward the threat of more intensive fighting.
The US and its allies have rejected calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, while ramping up the deployment of arms and military equipment to Israel and the surrounding area. Now, with important trade routes threatened by rocket fire as the Houthis try to push Western powers to support a ceasefire, they are looking to intervene more decisively
Rising conflict around trade routes in the Red Sea also comes with enormous economic risks. In response to the growing instability in the region, oil prices jumped above $80 a barrel – the highest price this month. Shipping routes have already faced significant disruption as suppliers have diverted shipping through longer, costlier routes or taken to air freight to avoid attacks in the Red Sea. The disruption to trade routes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a driving factor behind the inflationary crisis that saw a historic cost of living squeeze for working class people. A wider escalation is estimated to raise oil prices to $150 a barrel, raising the spectre of a new downturn in the global economy and of explosive political effects around the world.
No to war, no to imperialism!
Of course, working class people in Britain stand to gain nothing from British imperialism’s backing of the massacres in Gaza, nor by airstrikes in Yemen, nor the bloodshed and economic chaos of a wider regional war.
A war in the Middle East would also mean untold bloodshed and devastation for ordinary people in the region. But in this era of crises and geopolitical conflict, we cannot look to the ruling classes of any of the belligerent camps for a way out. It is only through our own action and solidarity, that we can prevent this situation from spiralling further out of control.
We should look to the historic wave of protests around the world demanding an end to the attacks on Gaza, as well as action against the production and export of arms for the israeli state. This movement played an important role in the temporary ceasefire agreed toward the end of last year. In the face of this new escalation, these kinds of class struggle methods are the most powerful tool we have. But it needs to be urgently stepped up as part of a wider movement against war and imperialism to face up to the threat of a wider war.
This must be connected to a struggle against the capitalist system behind this crisis, as part of a fight for socialist change in the Middle East and around the world, to guarantee true liberation and equality, including the right of self-determination for all national groups, and a lasting peace.