Middle East 'Guardian of Prosperity', an international flotilla for the Red Sea with the absence of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi

The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd Austin, announced this Tuesday in Bahrain, where he is on an official visit, the constitution of an international flotilla, under US command and in which Spain will participate, to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, which has become a war zone in the last month due to continued attacks by Yemen's Houthi militias against merchant ships as a result of which several have suffered varying degrees of damage and at least one has been hijacked

Middle East 'Guardian of Prosperity', an international flotilla for the Red Sea with the absence of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi

The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd Austin, announced this Tuesday in Bahrain, where he is on an official visit, the constitution of an international flotilla, under US command and in which Spain will participate, to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, which has become a war zone in the last month due to continued attacks by Yemen's Houthi militias against merchant ships as a result of which several have suffered varying degrees of damage and at least one has been hijacked. The coalition, however, will take weeks to become operational, according to The New York Times yesterday.

Austin made the remarks after visiting Israel, where he stated that the United States "is not going to dictate the schedule or the terms of the fighting" to Israel in the war in Gaza. Thus, the Secretary of Defense denied, at least in front of the gallery, the information that suggests that the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, wants Israel to drastically reduce its military operations as of December 31. In terms of defense, Israel is totally dependent on the United States.

The Houthis have missiles and drones delivered by Iran to maintain their long war against the Government of Yemen, supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Their attacks are in support of the Hamas terrorist group, which has been waging an open war with Israel since October 7. In addition to attacks on ships, the Houthis have launched at least twenty cruise missiles against Israel, of which the vast majority have been intercepted by American ships and at least one by an Israeli F-35 fighter-bomber, when it was already very close. close to reaching his target.

The countries that will participate in the operation, called Guardian of Prosperity - a very significant name, given the importance of the Red Sea in guaranteeing the flow of goods to Europe and, in general, to the entire world - are, in addition to the United States, The United Kingdom and France (which already have destroyers in the area that have gone into action intercepting Houthi missiles and drones), Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Bahrain, and Seychelles. The absence of the great regional powers - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - is significant, although this could be due to the fear of these countries of suffering attacks from Iran or its allies throughout the region. In the past, the Houthis have carried out major bombings on Saudi oil facilities. According to The New York Times, most of the countries that will join the operation have warships in the area. That is not the case of Spain.

Exactly in the last month, a total of 12 merchant ships have been attacked in the southern part of the Red Sea, a sea route in which there are usually about 400 merchant ships, according to the United States Navy. One of them, the Galaxy Leader, a so-called roro ship, that is, specialized in transporting cars, was hijacked and taken to the coast when it was heading from Turkey to Indiaenlaste, that is, without cargo. The Galaxy Leader, which is owned by Israeli businessman Rami Ungar, remains hostage with its entire crew off the coast of Yemen. The Houthis recorded on video the spectacular assault on the ship, which, according to American and Israeli sources, was probably carried out by an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Unit, something that Tehran denies.

Since then, the attacks have continued and in the last week they have multiplied, with the aggravating factor that the Houthis seem to be hitting more targets. At least two container ships, the Palatium 3 and the Swan Atlantic, have been hit, last Friday and Monday, respectively, by ballistic missiles and, possibly, also by drones. Although there is no confirmed information, both have suffered damage, which in the case of Palatium 3 has forced it to go to port for repairs. The US destroyer Mason also intervened directly in the attempted hijacking of the merchant ship Central Park on November 26, in which all the attackers were detained, although the Pentagon has not explained whether there was an exchange of fire. The British destroyer Diamond and the French frigate Languedoc are also in the area and have shot down several missiles that the Houthis had launched at the cargo ships. Both ships were immediately integrated into the Guardian of Prosperity yesterday. An Israeli corvette that performs the same functions in the area will remain outside the operation, perhaps so as not to create the impression that it is helping the Jewish State's war effort in Gaza.

However, that is how the Houthis see it. The Yemeni militias issued a statement declaring that "we reaffirm our firm support for the Palestinian people until Israel's aggression ends and it lifts the siege on the Gaza Strip." When the United States proposed forming an international coalition to protect ships crossing the Red Sea on Thursday, Iran's defense minister called it an "irrational move, which will have extraordinary consequences."

For many military observers, this confrontation is a kind of small-scale rehearsal for what could happen if the United States gave in to Israel's demands and attacked Iran's nuclear facilities from the sea: a barrage of missiles used with innovative tactics that would shut down to navigation the Persian Gulf, much of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.