Yemen's UN-recognized government has expressed concerns over the possibility of Houthi rebels cutting undersea internet cables off the country's Red Sea coast. The government warns that such an action could pose a significant threat to global digital infrastructure. This analysis suggests a potential shift in the Houthi's strategy, moving from targeting shipping to disrupting the global flow of information.
While the Houthis have previously denied such intentions, analyst Emily Milliken from Askari Defense & Intelligence argues that undersea cables could be their "next casualty." Milliken highlights a post on a Houthi-affiliated Telegram channel, which shared a map of undersea cables connecting Yemen and entire continents. She warns that even partial damage to these cables could lead to internet outages and major economic disruptions for countries relying heavily on internet access.
Currently, the Houthis lack the technology to reach the deep waters where the cables are located. However, the relatively shallow waters in the area make this more feasible, particularly with combat diver training and possession of naval mines.
Yemen's General Telecommunications Corporation has condemned the threat, urging telecomms groups not to cooperate with the Houthis to prevent knowledge of the cables from falling into their hands. In December, the Houthi-controlled Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology disclaimed any reported threats, stating that their ban on Israeli vessels does not apply to those working on the cables.
These recent statements coincide with US strikes on Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The US has taken pre-emptive actions to protect globally-used shipping lanes from the Houthis, who have been targeting Israeli-linked vessels since November in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
While the situation remains fluid, the potential disruption of undersea internet cables by the Houthi rebels is a cause for concern. The global economy heavily relies on internet access, and any damage to these cables could have far-reaching consequences. Efforts by Yemen's government and international actors, such as the US, to prevent such attacks are ongoing. The situation warrants close monitoring to assess the actual risk and potential impact on global digital infrastructure.