Australia has backed the military actions led by the US and UK, involving over a dozen airstrikes against locations used by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. President Joe Biden confirmed these strikes, marking a significant response to the Houthis’ campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. Australia’s Defense Minister, Richard Marles, emphasized that the decision to launch these strikes was not taken lightly, citing a previous warning issued by a group of 14 countries, including Australia, to the Houthi rebels on January 4. The warning stated that continued attacks on maritime activity in the Red Sea would result in consequences.
Australia’s contribution to the military action involved personnel in a non-operational role, stationed at the headquarters for the activity. The nation does not have ships in the Middle East but has 16 personnel deployed as part of a multinational combined maritime force based in Bahrain. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese highlighted the importance of defending freedom of navigation and global trade routes to Australia’s national interest.
The joint statement issued by Australia and nine other countries emphasized a shared commitment to freedom of navigation, international commerce, and defending mariners’ lives from unjustifiable attacks. President Biden, while acknowledging Australia’s support, stated that further attacks would not be hesitated if necessary. The specific details of Australia’s role in supporting the airstrikes were not disclosed. The military action targeted multiple sites in Yemen, and a Houthi official condemned the “American-Zionist-British aggression against Yemen.”
The Red Sea, a vital shipping channel, carries 15% of the world’s global seaborne trade. The Greens’ defense spokesperson, David Shoebridge, criticized the US and Australian governments, calling it hypocritical to launch airstrikes while expressing a desire to avoid the conflict in Gaza from spreading. Shoebridge advocated for an immediate, just, and enduring ceasefire in Palestine to prevent further violence.