Sunday, March 3, 2024

US announces multinational coalition against Houthi attacks in Red Sea

The United States on Monday announced a 10-nation coalition to confront Houthi missile and drone attacks on ships passing  the Red Sea region beside the Yemeni seaboard.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declared the formation of this maritime alliance along with Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Seychelles, Spain and the UK. 

This “multinational security initiative” proposes to ensure regular patrolling in the region to prevent Houthi attacks.

“Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor,” Austin said in a statement.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have routinised attacks on tankers, cargo ships and other vessels in the Red Sea, carrying goods or services to Israel, in an attempt to pressure Israel over its genocidal war against Palestinians.

They had earlier attacked a few “Israeli-linked” vessels in the Red Sea in solidarity with Gaza. 

The Norwegian-owned Swan Atlantic and another ship identified by the Houthis as the MSC Clara were the latest among the targets.

As Houthis continue to decline every proposal meant to pacify them, many companies are halting transit through the troubled but inevitable route.

These developments have also disrupted global trade, since about 12 percent of global trade passes through the Red Sea, which connects to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal, accounting to 30 percent of total container traffic.

Houthi attacks have effectively forced a  significant portion of global trade to reroute their movement around Africa, imposing higher expenses and delays for deliveries of energy, food and consumer goods.

At least 12 shipping companies, including the Italian-Swiss giant Mediterranean Shipping Company, France’s CMA CGM and Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk, have given up transit through the Red Sea due to safety concerns.

UK oil giant BP on Monday became the latest to announce its withdrawal from the Houthi controlled waterways.

“In light of the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea, BP has decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea,” BP said in a statement.

Among the 10 members taking part in the coalition, Bahrain is the only Arab nation. The other countries that were expected to join the alliance, such as Egypt and Jordan have not yet made it clear whether they would join the fold.

Egypt and Jordan, as well as some of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries, including Saudi Arabia, are part of the Combined Maritime Forces, under which the coalition will function.

The situation is complex for Saudi Arabia as they are planning to strike a deal with the Houthis.  Egypt, on the other hand, doesn’t want to be seen as going against the Houthis’ message for Israel to stop the war on the Gaza enclave.

Mohammed Al Bukhaiti, a senior Houthi official and spokesman, told in a statement that the group would confront any US-led coalition in the Red Sea.

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