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Formation of European Coalition in the Red Sea; Uncalculated Conflict with Ansarullah

20 Feb 2024 08:14

Islam Times - Previously, European nations objected to participating in the American coalition in the Red Sea, citing their disapproval of rising tensions in the region. However, analysts now perceive the change in stance by leaders from the continent as exacerbating instability in the area and jeopardizing Europe's maritime interests.

The deployment of US and allied military fleets in the Red Sea, coupled with a surge of airstrikes and naval attacks on Yemen in recent weeks, has sharply escalated tensions in the region, posing an unprecedented threat to maritime security along this vital international trade route. This situation has underscored the economic interests of numerous countries and heightened global apprehensions regarding the ongoing conflict dynamics, particularly in the Red Sea.

In the midst of these developments, the European Union, having previously refused to partake in what it labeled as the "guardianship" mission led by the United States and criticized the White House's tension-alleviating strategies as ineffective, has now made a significant policy reversal. It has announced its intention to deploy military fleets to the Red Sea and launch an independent maritime security mission that is unaffiliated with the American coalition.

According to a report by Reuters last Wednesday, European Union member states proposed an independent maritime security mission earlier this week. If ratified, Italy and France, already having vessels in the region, would join Germany in being the inaugural contributors to the European Union mission.

European authorities have announced the initiation of this mission on Monday, February 19th, with only five countries publicly confirming their involvement: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, and Italy.

Antonio Tajani, Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs, informed reporters in Rome on Wednesday that Italy aims to expedite the approval process to promptly commence the security mission.

Additionally, a spokesperson for the German government revealed on Friday that they have agreed to deploy armed forces to the European Union maritime mission in the Red Sea to safeguard commercial vessels from "Yemeni resistance forces attacks."

Nevertheless, Germany's participation reportedly necessitates parliamentary approval, with voting scheduled for next Friday.

According to this government official, a proposal advocating for a maritime mission until the end of February 2025, deploying a maximum of 700 soldiers in the region, will be presented to Parliament.

France and Italy currently maintain military ships in the area, and Belgium and Germany have also announced their intention to dispatch warships to partake in the European Union mission. In early February, a German frigate was dispatched to join the European Union mission.

An EU official announced on Friday that the union plans to launch this mission, named "Aspides" (meaning shields in Greek), within "a few weeks" with at least four ships.

According to Agence France-Presse, this EU official stated that the overall commander of this mission will be Greek, and Italy will be responsible for the senior operational control officer at sea.

The Economic Impact of the Red Sea Crisis on the Green Continent

The Red Sea serves as a pivotal trade pathway, accounting for an estimated 12% of global trade volume, including 30% of global container traffic.

Roughly 40% of Europe's trade with Eastern regions (Asia and the Middle East) relies on maritime routes, predominantly via the Red Sea.

As a consequence of these attacks, several major shipping companies have opted to circumvent this region, choosing longer and consequently more costly routes.

Despite heightened military presence from the United States and the United Kingdom in the Red Sea, prominent shipping firms like Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, and the Mediterranean Shipping Company persist in avoiding this corridor.

This shift has resulted in a one-week extension in travel duration and increased expenses for fuel, insurance, and crew salaries.

According to estimates from the shipping and ocean freight rate analysis platform "Xeneta," transit expenses have surged by approximately 15 to 25 percent since tensions escalated in the Red Sea.

Consequently, some European factories have temporarily suspended production in response to these developments.

For instance, certain car manufacturers in the European Union have temporarily halted the production of electric vehicles due to the crisis, as the majority of batteries are procured from Asia. Consequently, transport companies have sought assistance from Brussels.

Tesla has declared a suspension of production at its Gigafactory Berlin from January 29th to February 11th, while Volvo Cars briefly ceased production at its Belgian facility earlier this month.

Ivar Hansson Myklebust, chairman of Gram Car Carriers, a prominent vehicle transport firm, stated to TradeWinds magazine, "For the first time in 30 years, cars are not being transported via the Red Sea route."

The energy sector has also cautioned that this disruption might affect the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe. Despite Europe's heavy reliance on imports from alternative sources due to Russian gas sanctions, approximately 13% of LNG to the continent is transported via the Red Sea route.

This scenario has sparked concerns among European authorities that inflation, which has been on a downward trend in Western economies in recent months, could rebound and have a more enduring impact on the economy of the Green Continent.

Mission Not Aligned with Security

While European nations' resistance to joining the American coalition in the Red Sea was perceived by analysts as an acknowledgment of Washington's provocative moves to militarize the area and the ineffectiveness of such efforts in restoring regional security, leaders of the European Union are now aiming to present their recent decision in contrast to the American coalition's strategy and of a different nature.

In this context, Joseph Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, has affirmed that the Union's approach remains strictly defensive. Their naval vessels will solely be tasked with safeguarding commercial ships and monitoring attacks, with no involvement in ground operations against Yemenis. Approximately two months ago, on January 31st, Borrell stressed that engagement operations are "commensurate with the threat we face," and "we will not undertake any operations on land, solely at sea."

Certainly, these stances reflect Brussels' apprehensions regarding the swift responses from Ansarullah in Yemen. Despite the Yemeni resistance forces repeated assertions that they exclusively target ships associated with the Zionist regime as a legitimate military objective to end the atrocities and offenses in Gaza, authorities in Sanaa have also cautioned the Western allies of the regime. They have warned that any nation deploying a warship to the Red Sea and participating in maritime operations against Yemen will be perceived as an adversarial force. Such countries' military and civilian vessels will be added to their list of military targets.

Consequently, since November 19, more than 28 vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have faced attacks by Yemeni forces utilizing drones and anti-ship ballistic missiles. Despite attempts, the US and UK fleets have been unsuccessful in halting Sanaa's maritime activities, with Yemeni attacks on occupied territories persisting. Presently, American and British warships, along with commercial vessels, remain vulnerable. In the most recent incident last Wednesday, a US-owned commercial ship was targeted by an aggressive drone.

Undoubtedly, these threats are significantly impacting the maritime trade of European nations aligned with the US. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of Yemen's Supreme Political Council, recently conveyed to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, "If Italy engages in attacks against this group, Sanaa will also become a target." This position isn't far-fetched, as Europeans have acknowledged their collaboration in maritime operations with the American coalition. Joseph Borrell, alluding to US-led operations in the Red Sea, emphasized, "Naturally, we will coordinate with other missions."

Many Europeans have grasped this peril, and they harbor doubts about the efficacy of Europe's naval endeavors. For instance, nations like Spain and Ireland have publicly announced their refusal to join this coalition, instead urging Israel to institute an immediate ceasefire. According to the French news agency, Margarita Robles, the Spanish Defense Minister, remarked to reporters in Madrid last week, "Each country must justify its actions. Spain will consistently advocate for peace and dialogue."

Martin Kroger, the chief of the German Shipowners' Association, also suggested, "Easing genuine tensions might necessitate diplomatic endeavors to avert further violence escalation."

Nathalie Tocci, the director of the Italian Institute of International Affairs, holds the view that "the European Union faces both practical and credibility risks. Firstly, there's the danger of a European Union vessel being targeted, leading to escalation. Secondly, there's the risk that this mission will yield no substantial impact and will depict the European Union as feeble."

Tocci, reflecting on the Yemenis' resistance and triumphs against the Saudi-led coalition backed by Western weaponry, remarked, "Let's contextualize this. The Saudis have relentlessly bombarded Yemen for a decade. Have they truly managed to erode the Yemeni resistance forces military capabilities? No, they haven't."

Camille Lons, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, also asserts that "there's a genuine necessity to address the instability in Yemen and the broader tumult in the entire Red Sea." She emphasizes the need for a "diplomatic response," something "beyond mere military reaction to the ongoing events."

Indeed, both Tocci and Lons stress the fact that the genesis of the current Red Sea crisis must be traced back to Gaza. They lamented to Deutsche Welle that the European Union's divergent response to this conflict has undermined its credibility globally, particularly in regions where there's robust solidarity with the Palestinians.

Story Code: 1117401

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