In response to increased Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea, the United States has spearheaded the creation of a multinational force involving Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Seychelles, and the United Kingdom.
This 10-nation coalition aims to secure trade routes following disruptions that led numerous shipping lines, including major companies like Mediterranean Shipping Company, CMA CGM, and AP Moller-Maersk, to suspend operations.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the importance of collective action, stating, “Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor.”
Over the weekend, the US and UK navies reported shooting down 15 drones in the Red Sea, responding to the escalating drone and missile attacks by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. The rebels targeted vessels with alleged links to Israel or Israelis, with recent attacks on the Norwegian-owned Swan Atlantic and the MSC Clara. Despite the attacks, there were no reported injuries on either vessel.
The coalition, currently comprising six nations, may expand to include Egypt and Jordan, additional Arab nations with a vested interest in ensuring the safe passage of ships. The situation remains complex, especially considering regional dynamics, such as Saudi Arabia’s potential deal with Houthi rebels and Egypt’s cautious stance regarding the conflict in Gaza.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken engaged with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, condemning Houthi attacks on commercial vessels and urging cooperation to uphold maritime security.
Meanwhile, the impact of Houthi attacks has prompted at least 12 shipping companies, including BP, to temporarily avoid the Red Sea due to safety concerns. This precautionary pause disrupts global trade routes, rerouting significant portions and resulting in increased costs and delays for energy, food, and consumer goods deliveries. Approximately 12 percent of global trade, including 30 percent of container traffic, traverses the Red Sea, connecting to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.