Another U.S. military strike inside Yemen Thursday destroyed “two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the Southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch,” Central Command officials said afterward. The missiles were spotted a little before 4 p.m. local, and were identified as an “imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region,” which triggered what CENTCOM called a “self-defense” strike from the U.S.
POTUS: Expect more strikes in Yemen—even though they don’t seem to be discouraging the Houthis just yet. President Biden was asked Thursday if he thought the current U.S. response was “working” against the Houthi missile threat in the Red Sea. “Well, when you say working are they stopping the Houthis? No,” Biden replied bluntly. “Are they gonna continue? Yes,” he said.
New: Belgium says it will send one of its two frigates to the Red Sea as part of the European Union’s mission to protect shipping vessels in that critical waterway. The ship “is not intended to actively attack the Houthis, but it is intended to protect container ships in the Red Sea,” according to Belgian broadcaster VRT, reporting Friday.
For what it’s worth: The Belgian frigate carries just 16 Sea Sparrow air-defense missiles. “If a large swarm of drones comes, even such a frigate will be in trouble,” a defense analyst told VRT.
Update: The Houthis say they won’t attack Russian and Chinese ships traveling through the Red Sea, unless they’re somehow linked to Israel. That’s according to Russian newspaper Izvestia, which relayed the comments after Houthi spokesman Mohammed al-Bukhaiti reportedly visited Moscow this week. Saudi Arabia’s state-run Al-Arabiya news has more, here.
Al-Bukhaiti also claimed Houthi Red Sea attacks will stop once Israel stops its war on Hamas in Gaza. “There is no meaning to peace in light of the continuing crimes of genocide in Gaza, the starvation of its residents, and the deprivation of their right to live on their land,” he wrote on social media Thursday.
Reminder: For years, the Houthis have fought under the slogan, “God is Great; death to America; death to Israel; damn the Jews; victory for Islam.” It even has its own Wikipedia page. And there are no indications the group is updating or changing that slogan, which comes from the Iranian revolutionary movement of the late 1970s.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1981, the U.S. and Iran signed an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 444 days of captivity.
Developing: Some top Israeli officials are growing disillusioned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza war plans, the Associated Press reported Friday after former army chief Gadi Eisenkot spoke to Israel’s Channel 12 television station late Thursday. After three months of fighting in Gaza that’s displaced 80% of the enclave’s more than two million people, Eisenkot said Thursday, “We did not bring down Hamas” and “haven’t yet reached a strategic achievement.”
Eisenkot is one of just four members of Netanyahu’s war cabinet. But he told Channel 12 he’s not sure how much longer he’ll stay. When asked if he’d quit, he replied, “I know what my red line is. It’s connected to the hostages; that is one of the objectives. But it’s also connected to the way in which we need to run this war.”
Only a ceasefire will convince Hamas to release their remaining 100-plus Israeli hostages, and any other approaches are “illusions,” Eisenkot said. But neither Netanyahu nor U.S. officials have shown any interest in a permanent ceasefire, which is what Hamas demands if the hostages are to be released.
By the way: Netanyahu promised Thursday he won’t stop the war until he achieves “complete victory” over Hamas. And that, he said, is likely to take “many more months,” according to the BBC.
Netanyahu also rejected any plans for a Palestinian state, insisting such intentions would be an “attempt to impose a reality on us that would harm Israel’s security.”
White House reaction: “We’re not going to stop working towards that goal,” John Kirby of the National Security Council told reporters Thursday. He also added, “this is not a new comment by Prime Minister Netanyahu. We obviously see it differently. We believe that the Palestinians have every right to live in an independent state with peace and security. And the President and his team is going to continue to work on that.”
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin rang his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant on Thursday. According to Austin’s press team, the two discussed “Israel’s [purported] shift to low-intensity operations in Gaza, the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, instability in the West Bank, and a range of regional security matters.” Austin also “reiterated U.S. resolve to prevent the situation from escalating,” despite a flurry of cross-border attacks from multiple states and non-state actors across the region this past week.
ICYMI: U.S. defense contractor Palantir announced a new “strategic partnership” with Israel’s military last week. “No further details on the arrangement were disclosed, including what technology would be provided,” as Bloomberg noted in the initial announcement.
The U.S. defense and intelligence communities use Palantir software “to identify patterns hidden deep within datasets, ranging from signals intelligence sources to reports from confidential informants,” as Defense One has reported.
Shark Tank Kyiv? Don’t miss this exclusive look at the venture capitalists hunting war-winning tech in Ukraine, from Defense One’s Sam Skove.
The French military announced a new “artillery coalition” with Ukraine, which is a product the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group. “Alongside the United States, France, with its recognized industrial and operational expertise in this area, co-chairs the artillery coalition,” the French defense ministry said Thursday.
Paris also promised to deliver almost 80 Caesar howitzers to Kyiv before the end of the year. And it vowed to send Ukraine “around forty long-range SCALP missiles” in 2024 as well.
Coming soon: 155s for NATO. Alliance officials said Friday that they’ll meet Tuesday in Brussels for a signing ceremony marking the purchase of 155-millimeter artillery shells.
NATO plans biggest drills since Cold War. The alliance will rehearse its new defense plans—the first it has drawn up in decades—during Steadfast Defender 24, which is to run through May. The wargame will include some 90,000 troops, more than 50 warships, more than 80 fighter jets, helicopters and drones and at least 1,100 combat vehicles, alliance’s top commander Chris Cavoli said on Thursday. (Reuters)
Russia rejects US proposal for negotiations on nuclear arms control. The only remaining arms-control treaty between the two nations—New START—is set to expire in 2026. Sam Skove has more.
See also: “Putin’s Warped Wartime Economy, as Seen Through a Carton of Eggs,” via the Wall Street Journal reporting Thursday.
The U.S. just launched a new “Ship Repair Council” in Japan for the purpose of keeping U.S. ships in the region longer without having to return stateside for repairs, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel announced Friday. The new council will also help both countries better “link our defense industries” and allow the U.S. to “take advantage of Japanese ship expertise,” Emanuel said on social media.
The U.S. Navy is also working to use data from ships at sea to improve maintenance planning. “We take the lessons learned, we feed that back to the ships that are in theater to make sure they have the most current tactics. And at the same time, we’re feeding into the next deployers so as they work up and they certify, they have that information as well,” Rear Adm. Fred Pyle, director for the surface warfare division in the office of the chief of naval operations, said Thursday at Govini’s Defense Software and Data Summit in Washington. D1’s Lauren Williams has more, here.
And lastly: North Korea’s military said Friday that it tested an “underwater nuclear weapon system” at some recent but unspecified date. NK News calls it a drone that’s maybe more like a “maneuverable torpedo” that can allegedly carry tactical nuclear warheads.
Pyongyang first introduced the system 10 months ago, and said it’s been working on it for more than a decade.
Worth noting: North Korea “did not include any photos or details about the most recent test such as its range or duration,” NK News reports. Read more, here.