Creating new perspectives since 2009

US allies abandoning Red Sea alliance

December 29, 2023 at 8:56 am

A screen grab captured from a video shows that cargo ship “Galaxy Leader”, co-owned by an Israeli company, being hijacked by Iran-backed Houthis from Yemen in the Red Sea on November 20, 2023. [Houthis Media Center – Anadolu Agency]

One week after the US launched an alliance to guard the Red Sea against Houthi attacks on Israeli ships, members of the coalition no longer want to be associated with it, publicly, or at all, Reuters reported.

Two of America’s European allies who were listed as contributors to Operation Prosperity Guardian – Italy and Spain – issued statements appearing to distance themselves from the maritime force.

The Pentagon says the force is a defensive coalition of more than 20 nations to ensure billions of dollars’ worth of commerce can flow freely through a vital shipping choke-point in Red Sea waters off Yemen.

But nearly half of those countries have so far not come forward to acknowledge their contributions or allowed the US to do so. Those contributions can range from dispatching warships to merely sending a staff officer.

READ: Houthis claim responsibility for container ship attack in Red Sea

The reluctance of some US allies to link themselves to the effort partly reflects the fissures created by the war on Gaza, which has seen Biden maintain firm support for Israel even as it commits what most human rights organisations have said is genocide against Palestinians, killing more than 21,000 since 7 October.

“European governments are very worried that part of their potential electorate will turn against them,” said David Hernandez, a professor of international relations at the Complutense University of Madrid, noting that the European public is increasingly critical of Israel and wary of being drawn into a conflict.

The Houthis have attacked or seized a dozen Israel-linked ships with missiles and drones since 19 November, calling on the occupation state to stop its barbaric attacks on Gaza or risk losing more of its trade.

The navies of the United States, Britain and France have each shot down Houthi-launched drones or missiles.

The Red Sea is the entry point for ships using the Suez Canal, which handles about 12 per cent  of worldwide trade and is vital for the movement of goods between Asia and Europe. Houthi attacks have seen some ships rerouted around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, substantially increasing sailing time and costs.

Denmark’s giant container firm Maersk said on Saturday it would resume shipping operations in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. But Germany’s Hapag Lloyd said on Wednesday it still believes the Red Sea is too dangerous and will continue to send ships around the Cape of Good Hope.

READ: Israel’s war on Gaza: The Red Sea crisis