Due to the impact of the Gaza war on shipping and global trade, Israel’s ally the United States is bringing together several states to form a new military alliance in the Red Sea.

The new maritime defense group is an attempt to protect one of the world’s most important shipping routes and, importantly, the oil trade. Germany wants to explore the possibility of participation. Briefly about the most important issues:

Which countries are participating in the alliance and what are its goals?

The US-led alliance will include the UK, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Bahrain and the Seychelles. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who visited Bahrain on Tuesday, announced the alliance during a multi-day trip.

The goal is to protect freedom of navigation by countering attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on ships in the Red Sea, such as with ballistic missiles and drones. The deployment of the first ten countries will be called “Guardian of Prosperity”.


“Houthi rebel territory in Yemen

© dpa-infografik GmbH

Can other countries join?

Yes, the participation of Red Sea countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia is possible. The new alliance should begin to operate under the auspices of the existing “Combined Maritime Force” (UMF), which includes 39 states, including Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Turkey. Their goal is already to protect critical sea routes. Arab countries are sometimes in a difficult situation. Egypt, for example, shares the Houthis’ core demand for an end to Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, even the commitment of those states that, according to Austin, are part of the alliance does not yet seem definite. Spain has refused to participate outside of EU or NATO missions. An EU Commission spokesman said in Brussels that discussions were taking place among EU countries and with partners about what the response might look like.

Will Germany participate?

According to Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), German participation is being considered. Also Chairman of the Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP) supports this. “Consequently, everyone who depends on transporting their goods across the Red Sea is taking part, including German and European ships,” Strack-Zimmermann told dpa. Only on Thursday did German shipowners demand protective measures from the federal government and the EU.

At the same time, there are more cautious voices in the traffic light coalition. leader of the SPD Saskia Esken The DPA said the alliance was “important and necessary both for Germany and for our trading relations.” However, the Bundestag must be involved in this, since there is currently no UN mandate. Green Party MP Agnieszka Brügger was also fundamentally open and said: “In view of the enormous risks for civil shipping, Germany should under no circumstances reflexively abandon it.”

But a mandate from the Bundestag is needed here, Esken said. This is fundamentally necessary for all armed operations of the Bundeswehr.

Why are European countries involved in protecting the Red Sea?

Increasing attacks by Houthi rebels that threaten international trade are not just affecting the United States or Israel. For example, the Galaxy Leader attacked was reportedly a British Bahamian-flagged vessel operated by a Japanese company with crew members from Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, the Philippines and Mexico.

The three ships attacked on December 3 had ties to 14 different countries. First of all, the deterioration of maritime trade will threaten energy security as well as freight transport and will therefore also have a serious impact on Europe.

Who are the Houthi rebels?

The Houthi rebels are a militant movement in Yemen, located in the southern Arabian Peninsula. In recent decades, they have repeatedly provoked uprisings against the Sunni leadership in the capital Sanaa. They took control there in 2014 and now control most of the country, especially in the north. According to a 2019 analysis, there are between 180,000 and 200,000 armed fighters. They have a vast arsenal of weapons and are primarily supported by Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Houthis are fighting a civil war in Yemen against a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia.

What do the Houthis want?

Above all, the rebels want to rule all of Yemen and be recognized for it. In the Gaza war, the Houthis, like their backer Iran, want to convince Israel to stop attacks. They have declared any ship that enters or leaves Israeli ports without helping Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to be a possible target. Now the attacks also appear to be targeting ships that have nothing to do with Israel.

With their attacks, the Houthis also want to gain wider recognition as part of Iran’s self-proclaimed “Axis of Resistance” against Israel. They can also distract from your own problems and show strength.

What impact do the attacks have on shipping and trade?

The increased attacks have forced the world’s four largest shipping companies to take long detours and avoid the Bab el-Mandab strait, which leads to the Suez Canal and is one of the world’s most important shipping routes. Traffic through the Red Sea has already fallen by 35 percent, according to news agency Bloomberg.

Ships can sail around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. However, this means longer delivery times and higher costs, also due to higher fuel consumption, which in turn affects trade. About twelve percent of world trade passes through the Suez Canal.

What are the implications for energy prices?

A prolonged disruption of traffic through the Red Sea will also affect energy prices – especially in Europe, which is still recovering from the energy crisis associated with the war in Ukraine. Oil supplies through the Suez Canal and parallel pipeline, including to Europe, increased by more than 60 percent compared to 2020.

A complete cessation of these supplies will lead to an increase in oil prices. At the beginning of the week, due to the tense situation, they rose by about two dollars. An estimated eight percent of the world’s crude oil supplies pass through the Suez Canal. (Author: Johannes Sadek, dpa/fab)

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Teaser image: © dpa / NASA photo report/dpa