Foreign Policy: Will submarine cables be the Houthis' next target?

An article published by the US magazine Foreign Policy confirms that fears have grown in the West about the Houthis targeting a group of submarine cables in the Red Sea that carry all the data and financial communications between Europe and Asia. Are.

The article further stated that the attacks have so far been limited to commercial shipping vessels headed towards Israel, and energy flows through the main crossing point between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean. But this new concern highlights how undersea infrastructure has become a critical feature of the global security landscape.

The magazine reported that an account linked to Houthi militants posted on the Telegram application in late December a threat against dozens of fiber optic cables passing through the Bab al-Mandab strait in western Yemen.

The magazine's report indicated that submarine cables located on the seabed have become part of the security game between countries in recent years, as was the case when the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany mysteriously collapsed. was blown up (while the Nord Stream 2 line was damaged). The last time there was damage to power and data lines in the eastern Baltic Sea that was described as mysterious. Similar incidents have affected data communications in the Mediterranean Sea.

great concern

Although the submarine cables in the Red Sea have not been damaged to date, the threat of targeting them is very worrying for the West, especially since there are few other options for moving huge amounts of data and money between Europe and Asia.

Foreign Policy quoted Timothy Strong, vice president of research at Telegeography, as saying, “More than 99% of intercontinental communications pass through submarine cables, and this is not just limited to the Internet, but also includes financial transactions and transfers between banks. Is.” Strong said that many Defense Departments also depend on the cables, which shows that the Red Sea cables are very important.

The magazine wondered to what extent the Houthis are able to damage submarine cables, which are usually well connected to the seabed.

The Brookings Institution researcher denied the ability of the Houthis to pose a threat to submarine cables, but he spoke about the importance of monitoring Iran, saying: “I think it's something that should be monitored. If the matter escalates and we really enter into a fierce confrontation between the United States and Iran, it may be asked whether “the Iranians have this capability.”

He said there were likely low-tech ways to damage some cables under the sea, especially in shallow locations. Strong said about two-thirds of all accidents involving submarine cables are caused by human error, usually caused by fishing vessels or commercial vessels dragging their anchors on the seabed.

repair is difficult

The magazine said damage to cables is usually not a major problem, as the United States and most other countries maintain cable repair ships on standby to repair any interruptions in critical undersea data links.

But because of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, it will not be possible for repair ships to spend several days at a time repairing the damaged cable.

The magazine said that, following the Nord Stream attacks, NATO established a new cell to coordinate the protection of critical maritime infrastructure, highlighting the importance of submarine cables.

The Hague Center for Strategic Studies has recently released a new report highlighting the growing importance of developing unmanned underwater vehicles for European navies, particularly to monitor undersea infrastructure.

The report calls for European naval forces to prioritize the protection of critical “access” areas to Europe, including the Red Sea.

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