Erick Erickson: Weakness Provokes Bullies

The perspectives and thoughts expressed in this op-ed are the exclusive purview of the author.

North and South Yemen no longer exist. During the Cold War, North Yemen had ties to the West, and South Yemen had Marxist leadership, branding itself as totalitarian regimes often do, the “People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.” With the collapse of the Soviet Union and communist subsidy, North Yemen finally sought merger with South Yemen in what is now known simply as Yemen.

Yemen is the second-largest country on the Arabian peninsula and also the poorest of the Arab nations. It’s unification and ties to its Arab neighbors presented a threat to Iran because North Yemen, not having been a Marxist-run state, was more stable, more prosperous, and had close ties to the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Among the many tribes and peoples in Yemen are the Houthi. Unlike most of the population, which is Sunni, the Houthi are Shiite Muslims, like Iran. Iran embraced the Houthi and have turned them into a terrorist regime at war both with Yemen’s government and its neighbors. Provoked to believe the United States is the “Great Satan” and Saudi Arabia is our helper, the Houthi have waged war with arms and funds supplied by Iran.

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The Houthi are not just terrorists. They are also slavers in the real, literal sense. The Houthi practice slavery and trade slaves. They keep captives to tend to Houthi tribal leaders and their families. The captives, as the word implies, are held against their will and treated horribly.

During the Trump administration, the State Department designated the Houthi a foreign terrorist organization. Progressives and global humanitarians opposed the designation because Yemen, at the time, was suffering a famine and the designation complicated assisting people in Yemen. With the designation, the Houthi’s assets were frozen and criminal charges could be pressed against any individual or organization that assisted them.

One of the very first actions the Biden administration took in January of 2021 upon taking office was ending the terrorist designation for the Houthi. It was, like electing Biden himself, a regrettable mistake. The Biden administration sought to reorder our Middle Eastern relations. The Saudis were now the bad guys. The Iranians were now our peace roundtable partners. In hindsight, the Biden administration had been infiltrated by individuals sympathetic to and possibly under the direction of the Iranian regime.

The Biden administration, knowing Iran uses its money to fund terrorism globally, freed up frozen bank assets for Iran, allowed Iran to sell oil and turned a blind eye to Iran’s various revenue streams. All that money did not go to Iran’s people but to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthi. On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas invaded Israel and killed thousands. The Houthi began firing Iranian supplied missiles at Iran and shut down shipping through the Red Sea. Without access to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, container ships must add 15 to 20 extra days sailing all the way around the African continent.

In response, the Biden administration launched countermeasures against the Houthi in the form of press statements and hashtags. The Houthi were undeterred and stepped up their attacks on cargo ships and American warships. The Americans, Brits, Australians and several Arab countries finally bombed Houthi positions after telling the Houthi that the attacks were coming, giving them time to move their munitions and people.

After the allied strikes against the Houthi, the Houthi stepped up their attacks in the Red Sea and Iran started firing missiles at American positions in Iraq. The Biden administration has signaled weakness time and time again, provoking further bullying by Iran and its terror allies.

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Now the Biden administration claims it will redesignate the Houthi as terrorists but will not reinstate the more serious Foreign Terrorist Organization designation. These half-measures and scowls do nothing to restore global shipping channels or eliminate a terrorist organization at war with our allies. Joe Biden and his diplomatic agents signal American weakness to both our allies and our enemies. Iran is metaphorically giving National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan a swirly while the dementia patient prone to wander off the campaign stage is causing American leadership to wander off the world stage at the time it is most needed.

To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


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