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Besides Not Having a SecDef, We Don’t Have Much of a Int’l Red Sea Coalition Against the Houthis, Either – HotAir

In mid-December, almost as soon as our currently ailing Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced his soaringly named international coalition of high seas passage defenders…

…it started to unravel at the seams like a leaky old wooden sailing boat.

It’s taking no time at all for the Biden administration Red Sea plan to fall apart. In point of fact, it started to crumble almost as soon as our lumbering, blundering SecDef Lloyd Austin announced the inspirational program.

The new multi-national taskforce with the thrillingly inspirational name – “Prosperity Guardian” – was a call-to-arms of sorts for nations whose vessels transit the Red Sea/Suez Canal routes, and who were being threatened by repeated Houthi attacks, both drones and swift boat piracy, in what’s known as the Bab el-Mandeb (BAM) Strait. That’s the southern chokepoint where the Red Sea squeezes between Yemen and Djibouti as it makes a left turn before reopening into the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, and the open waters of the Indian Ocean beyond.

France huffed their way out of the very first meeting, to be followed by the like of the Australians (who flat-out said they wouldn’t play), and several other embarrassing defections. Rumors swirled about reasons for everything from the U.S. not being prepared to implement a plan when they called everyone together in the first place, to whispers that reviled and renowned weasel Jake Sullivan was the mastermind running the operation out of the White House…which could also explain a lot if true.

The “coalition” shriveled like a naked redneck who’d been in the Bass Pro Shop fish tank too long.

There have been some piecemeal additions from the Greeks and British…

“We are working with allies and partners to protect freedom of navigation and remain committed to holding malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks. The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives and commercial shipping in these critical waterways.”

In addition the Greek Government has announced the deployment of HS Hydra (F-452) to be deployed as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian and will arrive within the next 2 or 3 weeks

…but it’s hardly the naval juggernaut originally envisioned.

Another source says it wasn’t just planning, it was a messaging snafu by the U.S. team. Gosh, hard to imagine, right?

It is interesting to look at it from this angle, though, and it does explain why there’s only one Arab nation aboard – Bahrain – and they’re under tremendous pressure. it wouldn’t be the first time this administration argle-bargled from the outset, and subsequent “clarifications” just made things worse (Like, say, where and how IS that SecDef…?)

A US-led initiative to deter attacks against international shipping transiting the Red Sea has struggled to get off the launchpad, seemingly amid concern over its political framing.

Launched on 19 December under the codename Operation Prosperity Guardian, the coalition would protect commercial shipping and freedom of navigation, one of the founding tenets of international law, and according to the US, would include 20 participating countries.

But almost a month on, the superpower has apparently failed to rouse coalition partners; almost half of the purported parties have refused to publicly declare participation.

Senior research fellow for Middle East security at the Royal United Services Institute Tobias Borck said the lack of support was in no way tied to the logic of the mission, “which everyone agrees with”, but rather the context in which it was playing out.

…“What’s at issue is the framing of the Houthis, and the way they are seeking to frame it. On one side, [they] are compared to Somali pirates – armed non-state actors assaulting free movement – but on the other, they claim they are doing this to engender a ceasefire in Gaza.”

…Mr Borck said within this matrix there was no objection to fending off pirates, but concerns had arisen among states that to join would suggest support for Israel’s military operation.

This may explain why the US has yet to persuade most Arab nations to publicly declare support for the operation, Bahrain, which houses the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, the only Middle Eastern nation to join.

The author calls it a Catch-22, but also points out that at the rate the price of sitting on the sidelines is going up, economics may force a shift in opinion and call to action. Not to mention the Houthis themselves, while claiming to target only Israeli owned vessels, cargo. or ships delivering to Israeli ports, haven’t exactly stuck to that hard and fast rule.

…Mr Borck also noted that Houthi claims of only attacking Israel-linked ships were “not stacking up”; the crew of a Japanese vessel headed for Italy have been held captive by the militia for more than 40 days.

As the United States looked increasingly more ineffectual on a world stage at a moment where any wrong move could set off a global conflagration, the Houthis really began feeling their oats, and may be the ones to eventually undercut their own good thing. Reveling in their power to disrupt international shipping and the global economy to such an extent that shipping rates skyrocketed and transit times went through the roof – not to mention tossing their Somali pirate bros some game to chase – that their head bubba just made a general announcement to the shipping industry at large that they should get in touch with his team if they’d like to transit the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab.

He can, he assured them, be reasonable and come to some arrangement if a few conditions are met for passage.

…Yemen’s Houthi militia have been targeting ships with drones and missiles in the southern Red Sea and beyond for the past two months in retaliation for Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas. More than 25 ships have been targeted, and one car carrier remains in Yemeni waters having been hijacked in November.

Yesterday, the leader of the Houthis, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, urged all ships planning to transit the Red Sea to notify his militia in advance with details of their destinations as well as declaring no connections with Israel to avoid being attacked.

The US Central Command reported on Saturday that the USS Laboon naval destroyer shot down a drone launched by the Houthis near commercial ships in Red Sea international waters.

Chinese carrier COSCO, the 4th largest shipping company on earth, isn’t going to take him up on the offer, even though they seem to have been pretty lucky as far as taking hits on their vessels. Bets were it was because of the Chinese connection to Iran, and the weapons supplying angle, but it hasn’t protected all of their boats.

Still, COSCO announced they won’t be running the Red Sea with Israeli ports-of-call route for the foreseeable future, whatever assurances might be available from your local Houthi safe-ticket salesman.

Chinese liner giant Cosco Shipping Lines has suspended visits to Israeli ports, according to Israeli media reports.

The state-owned carrier made the move in the wake of rising Red Sea tensions following attacks on vessels by Houthi militants, according to news outlet Globes.

The reports did not give any details and Cosco does not appear to have made any formal statement.

If confirmed, however, the move by the fourth-largest liner operator would be a significant development which would affect other liner operators.

That includes Israeli shipping line Zim which cooperates with Cosco and would have to operate more services, the reports said.

While Cosco has rerouted many vessels around the around the Cape of Good Hope, the company has made a number of Red Sea transits without any incident.

Now, the reason I highlighted the Israeli shipping line Zim above, is because of another Red Sea wrinkle that’s reared it head today – rumors of Houthi-bribing for safe passage. Zim and COSCO are smack in the middle of it.

Shares of the Israeli shipping company Zim plunged over 17 percent in premarket trading today following reports that their Chinese partner COSCO is withdrawing from Israel. However, Wall Street shipping analysts suggest that this development is not the sole factor unsettling the market. ShippingWatch, a Danish maritime news service, has reported rumors that a containership line may have bribed Houthi officials to avoid targeting their vessels.

The news, reported by ShippingWatch—a subsidiary of Denmark’s Watch Media Group—alleges that in late December, a shipping carrier struck a deal with Houthi militants, agreeing not to target their vessels. This agreement comes amid an escalating threat level in the Red Sea and the United States’ challenges securing allied support for the US Navy-led Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG).

Big shipping guns Maersk and HAPAG are, like, “DUDES! Wasn’t us!

Zim stock was getting hammered on the rumor – isn’t that wild?

If the U.S. could get it’s act together and maybe run a proper naval blockade or whatever they’d planned (hah, right) to do originally, maybe this sort of whiplash event wouldn’t be roiling already choppy and very nervous, expensive waters.

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