Strikes against Houthis will be ‘long, ongoing operation’, says ex-Navy chief

Strikes against the Houthis in Yemen are likely to be part of a “long, ongoing operation” to secure the Red Sea, a former Navy chief has told Parliament.

Retired admiral and Labour peer Lord West of Spithead noted the understandable reluctance of shipping companies to return to their previous route after attacks from the Iran-backed group.

He warned that this means the issue of securing safe passage through the crucial waterway is not going to be over with quickly.

Retired admiral and Labour peer Lord West of Spithead warned the issue of securing safe passage through the Red Sea will be part of a ‘long, ongoing’ operation (David Mirzoeff/PA)

He said: “The large-scale attack that we put in first of all was never going to stop the Houthis doing their attacks, it was going to degrade only.

“And indeed post-then, the Americans have done a number of strikes in retaliation for when weapons have been fired at them; and the attack we are talking about now will hopefully degrade the capabilities of the Houthis to attack innocent shipping even more.

“I fear that the shipping companies seem to be showing a huge reluctance to think about going back in the Red Sea, even though the Houthis have been degraded and I can understand that.

“Therefore this is likely to be quite a long, ongoing operation.”

He suggested that, instead of continuing to operate out of the RAF base in Cyprus, the UK may want to send an aircraft carrier closer to the operation in order to be more agile in its response.

Leader of the House of Lords, Lord True, said: “We are working in a coalition here – the Prosperity Guardian Operation involves 21 nations, plus ourselves.

“The strikes, the response, the action that was taken, which we’re talking to, took place with the support of Bahrain, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia. This is an international response to unlawful action at sea.”

He added that the Government always reviews deployment of assets, but believes the forces that the coalition has available are “sufficient to deal with the threat that is currently presented”.