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Oman reportedly brokered US-Iranian talks on scaling back Houthi Red Sea terror attacks

Houthi followers raise firearms during a parade in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and to show support to Houthi strikes on ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, in Sanaa, Yemen January 29, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo)

The Gulf state Oman reportedly brokered indirect secret U.S.-Iranian talks in January, aimed at convincing Tehran to scale back terror attacks against commercial ships in the Red Sea region by its terrorist proxy, the Houthis in Yemen.

Following the Hamas terrorist organization's Oct. 7 attack against Israel, the Iran-aligned Houthi group has repeatedly attacked international vessels with drones and missiles in the Red Sea in an act of solidarity with Hamas in Gaza. As a result, maritime activities and the global shipping trade have been disrupted, prompting an international response.

The Biden administration’s Middle East envoy Brett McGurk led the American delegation while the Iranian side was represented by Tehran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

The talks reportedly also raised the issue of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

An unnamed official familiar with the negotiations argued that the indirect talks between Washington and Tehran constitute “a method for raising the full range of threats emanating from Iran.”

However, the Iranian regime claims it has limited influence over the Houthis.

“Iran has repeatedly said it only has a form of spiritual influence [over the rebels]. They can’t dictate to the Houthis, but they can negotiate and talk,” an Iranian official claimed, despite the Iranian regime having trained, funded and provided advanced weaponry to the Houthis.

The Red Sea, which is vital for global trade, connects Asian manufacturers with the large European consumer market and beyond. However, the Houthi attacks have made commercial ships think twice before passing through the strategically important Red Sea. This prompted Washington and its allies in late 2023 to form an international alliance to confront the growing Houthi terror threat.

In January, the American-led international coalition responded by launching strikes against multiple Houthi sites in the Middle East. At the time, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to stop the Houthi terror against international shipping.

“These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes,” Biden pledged.

However, the Houthi terror attacks have continued with no immediate end in sight. Last week, two Filipino and one Vietnamese crew members were killed in a lethal attack on the Barbados-flagged vessel True Confidence. This was the first time a Houthi attack resulted in fatalities.

The Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi recently boasted that his organization had conducted 96 missile and drone attacks in the Red Sea area since October.

The Houthi terrorist Abdul Sattar Al-Nehemi told The Media Line that the group would continue carrying out terror attacks allegedly in support of Gaza.

“We have a firm belief in our leadership and its decisions, which motivates us to continue these operations in support of our brothers in Gaza,” Al-Nehemi said. The top Houthi leader also threatened “more surprises” for the United States and Israel.

Middle East freelance journalist Samah Lutf assessed that the Houthis are emboldened by the significant Iranian support and relative global inaction.

“Due to regional and local support, generous Iranian backing, and the absence of economic and political accountability towards the world, the Houthis are becoming bolder in their military operations, considering it the only way to improve their image and recreate the popular support they lost due to the economic and political crises they are facing in Yemen,” Lutf stated.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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