The Crisis In The Middle East

Bab El-Mandeb: A Strategic Choke Point


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bab El-Mandeb

Mains level: Read the attached story

Bab El-Mandeb

Central Idea

  • The war between Israel and Hamas in October raised concerns about Hezbollah’s involvement, but the focus shifted when the Houthis in Yemen expanded the conflict to the Red Sea.
  • Despite tensions, Hezbollah and Israel avoided full-scale war, with Israel concentrating on Gaza.

Houthi Involvement and Shift in Tactics

  • Initial Actions: The Houthis, aligned with Iran, initially targeted Israel in solidarity with Palestinians, using drones and missiles, which were intercepted.
  • Change in Strategy: Later, they shifted focus to attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, threatening global shipping routes.

Understanding the Houthis

  • Background: The Houthis, known formally as Ansar Allah, are a Shia militia group in Yemen, named after their late leaders Badr al-Din al-Houthi and Hussein al-Houthi.
  • Iranian Support: They receive direct support from Iran and have significant military capabilities, including drones and ballistic missiles.

Strategic Importance of Bab el-Mandeb Strait

  • Geographical Significance: The Strait of Bab el-Mandeb is a crucial maritime chokepoint, connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
  • Impact on Global Shipping: Houthi actions near the strait have led to a significant decrease in Red Sea traffic and increased shipping costs.

Global and Regional Consequences

  • Effect on Israel: Israel’s southern port traffic, particularly in Eilat, has been severely impacted.
  • Broader Trade Implications: Approximately 12% of global maritime trade passes through the strait. Disruptions here could exacerbate inflationary pressures worldwide.
  • Alternative Routes: Shipping companies are rerouting around Africa, significantly increasing travel time and costs.

International Response

  • US Naval Task Force: The U.S. has established a naval force to counter the Houthi threat.
  • Arab World’s Stance: Many Red Sea countries, including Egypt, have not joined the U.S. task force, reflecting regional discontent with U.S. policies.
  • Potential Offensive Measures: The U.S. has not ruled out bombing Houthi targets in response to continued attacks on shipping lanes.


  • Continued Houthi Threat: The Houthis vow to persist in their actions as long as Israel’s conflict with Gaza continues.
  • Challenges for Global Trade: The situation underscores the fragility of global shipping routes and the potential for regional conflicts to have far-reaching economic impacts.
  • Need for Diplomatic Solutions: This complex scenario highlights the importance of diplomatic efforts to resolve regional tensions and protect vital maritime trade routes.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch