Yemen blocks Suez and Red Sea

Disruption of Maritime Trade: Yemen Resistance Prompts Companies to Suspend Shipping through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal

Disruption of Maritime Trade: Yemen Resistance Prompts Companies to Suspend Shipping through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal

United States proposes task force to “ensure safe passage” through one of the most lucrative commercial waterways

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Tel Aviv on December 18 to discuss the ongoing siege of Gaza and other military operations being carried out against the Palestinian people.

Although the major talking point from the Pentagon which aired over western media sources was that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) must carry out its blanket bombing and ground operation in Gaza utilizing precision tactics.

Such statements have been advanced by the White House spokesman and cabinet members as the opposition to the siege on Gaza mounts internationally. Pressure from below throughout North America, Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific has compelled most imperialist states to pay lip service to a long-term ceasefire by the IDF.

Although President Biden has reportedly whispered to private audiences that he disagrees with the way in which the war is being waged by the IDF against the 2.3 million people of Gaza, the reality is without U.S. shipments of weapons to the settler-colonial state the carnage being imposed upon the Palestinians would not exist. It has been well-documented even within corporate and government-sponsored western media networks that thousands of tons of weapons including bombs sent by the U.S. have caused havoc in Gaza.

Nearly 20,000 people have been killed in the strip by mid-December. Tens of thousands more have been injured while the entire population of Gaza have been dislocated, deprived of housing, medical care and security by the State of Israel backed by the government and ruling class in North America and Western Europe.

Yemeni Resistance and Palestine Solidarity  

Nonetheless, another major concern by Washington and Wall Street is the actions carried out by the Yemen Naval Forces which have targeted ships linked to Israeli business interests and those utilizing ports controlled by Tel Aviv. Austin has confirmed during December that the U.S. is establishing a task force to challenge the Yemeni resistance forces led by the Ansar Allah in the Red Sea region.

Yemen resistance forces are in complete solidarity with the people fighting the Zionist regime in Palestine. They are representative of the anti-imperialist sentiment throughout the West Asia, Horn of Africa and North Africa geopolitical regions.

Resistance forces in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have engaged both Israeli and Pentagon bases and settlements. On a political level, there have been large demonstrations against Israel and the U.S. throughout the impacted region as well as around the globe.

This overall atmosphere of solidarity with Palestine and a growing commitment to facilitate substantive change has created a strategic dilemma for the leading imperialist states seeking to continue their domination of the shipping lanes in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. As Austin announced the redeployment of aircraft carriers from the Perian Gulf to the Red Sea areas, the threats of direct military confrontation with the Yemeni resistance will become a reality.

The threats of U.S. military strikes against Yemen are only inflaming tensions throughout West Asia and the Persian Gulf. Major shipping companies transporting goods and oil have suspended their operations in the Red Sea. Insurance corporations are gaging their risks as Yemeni Naval Forces escalate military operations against Israeli interests.

In a report published by Al Mayadeen it notes that:

“After repeated operations from Yemeni Armed Forces in the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM, announced Saturday (Dec. 16) they were suspending passage through the Red Sea. The declaration by MSC, an Italian-Swiss conglomerate, and CMA CGM, a French shipping company, follows a similar move by the world’s second-largest shipping company, A.P. Moller-Maersk, who announced, on Friday (Dec. 15), the suspension of all container traffic through the Red Sea until further notice. This decision comes in response to an attack by the Yemeni Armed Forces on container ships heading to Israeli-occupied Palestine in the Bab al-Mandab Strait. Simultaneously, the Yemeni Armed Forces announced that their Naval forces carried out a military operation against the Maersk Gibraltar cargo ship, which was en route to the Israeli occupation entity.”

These shipping firms are essential in the profit-making capabilities of global commerce, particularly in the energy industry. Any effective blockade by the Resistance units operating within the Red Sea and Arabian Sea would be extremely costly for the world capitalist system.

Not only are the substantial risks incurred by shipping and energy interests of concern to the U.S., if Washington was compelled to engage in military strikes in Yemen, it could very well open up other avenues of attacks by the Resistance in various areas along the Red Sea. Even among Axis of Resistance forces in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, an attack on Yemen could bolster their willingness to confront U.S. and Israeli military units.

In the same above-mentioned article in Al Mayadeen the publication says:

“On Saturday morning, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) claimed a U.S. missile destroyer in the Red Sea shot down 14 drones fired from Yemen, adding that regional allies had been notified of the incident. In addition, the spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree publicly announced that the Yemeni Naval Forces targeted the MSC Alanya and the MSC PALATIUM III with anti-ship missiles, dealing direct hits to the two vessels, on Friday. Two U.S. officials recently stated that the Biden administration has conveyed messages to the Yemeni Armed Forces in Yemen through various channels, cautioning them to cease their operations on ships in the Red Sea and against Israel. The operations in Yemen have posed a threat to Israeli and Israeli-affiliated ships sailing one of the key commercial shipping routes in the region, in solidarity with Palestine.”

Therefore, the U.S. is compelled to confront the Yemeni Resistance in an effort to reinforce its status as the facilitator and guardian of trade. The outcome of this expanded phase of the war may prove disastrous for Washington since the worldwide opposition to the war on Gaza has weakened the political posture of the Biden administration.

The Palestinian Question and the 2024 U.S. Elections

On December 18, there was yet another World Day of Action against the Israeli regime and its backers in the White House and Congress. In New York City thousands marched through the streets blocking entrances to businesses and transportation hubs.

After more than two months of the IDF siege on Gaza and the West Bank, within the U.S. and around the world there are mass demonstrations, rallies and other forms of protest directed towards the acquisition of a ceasefire and halting of all military, diplomatic and economic support to the Zionist state. Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Flood in early October, the Palestinians have maintained the ideological and psychological advantage over the governments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Biden.

The Democratic Party president has suffered huge losses in public support in less than one year leading up to the national elections. A recent CNN opinion poll indicated that Biden was facing a 63% disapproval rating among U.S. voters. In a race against Trump, if the elections were held in mid-December, Biden would lose by several percentage points.

Undoubtedly, the disapproval of Biden is fueled by the proxy wars in Ukraine against the Russian Federation and in Palestine. The war against the Palestinians in Gaza has expanded to the West Bank where thousands have been arrested and dozens killed since October 7. On a regional level there are threats of deepening involvement by the U.S. in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Red Sea.

Moreover, the U.S. propaganda on the West Asia region is based upon the false notion that the Islamic Republic of Iran is directing the entire Axis of Resistance in its every move. The purpose of making these assertions against Tehran by the Biden administration is aimed at building support among the U.S. electorate for its increasing hostility towards the country.

This approach by the Biden administration will only enhance its disapproval ratings within the U.S. and abroad. In the ever-expanding opposition to Biden’s vetoing of ceasefire resolutions at the United Nations Security Council, many more workers, youth and oppressed peoples domestically and internationally will turn against the president.

Consequently, the path to re-election by Biden is becoming narrower each month. The U.S. electorate is being forced to choose between the neo-fascism of former President Donald Trump and the warmongering of the incumbent. What is needed is an alternative political movement geared towards realizing the emancipation of the workers and oppressed while ending the imperialist antagonisms and wars.


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100 Container Ships Diverted, Insurance Surges As Red Sea Chaos Worsens

WEDNESDAY, DEC 20, 2023 – 12:45 PM

Global transport and logistics company Kuehne + Nagel International AG reports more than 100 container ships have been rerouted from the Red Sea around Africa to avoid Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen who attack commercial vessels with missiles and drones.

Bloomberg released two headlines early Wednesday detailing Kuehne + Nagel’s update on the Red Sea. The logistics firm said 103 container ships have detoured around the Cape of Good Hope, lengthening travel time by 1 to 2 weeks. It expects the number of detours to rise in the coming days.

For commercial vessels still transiting the vital waterway that connects to the Suez Canal, Bloomberg noted in a separate report that the cost of insuring jumped this week from about .1% to .2% of the hull value to .5%. A $100 million vessel must pay about $500,000 per voyage

Increased insurance costs plus more extended travel around the Cape of Good Hope only suggest snarled supply chains and increased prices of goods.

“Both options of increased premiums and rerouting around Africa will see a knock-on effect on the price of goods,” said Toby Vallance, Executive Committee Member of the London Forum of Insurance Lawyers.

Euronav NV Chief Executive Officer Alexander Saverys told Bloomberg TV that the disruption in the Red Sea “will slow down the trade because we will have to wait for a convoy to pass through.” The petroleum tanker giant halted shipments through the Red Sea early this week and won’t transit the region unless there are military escorts. Several other major shipping firms stopped traveling through the area this week (read: here).

Called “Operation Prosperity Guardian,” the Pentagon hasn’t released exact details on how it plans to escort commercial vessels through the conflict region. Vincent Clerc, the chief executive of container shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, said it could take several weeks for the task force to become operational.

Meanwhile, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the Biden administration was considering re-designating Iran-backed Houthis as a “terrorist organization.” The administration is also considering possible military strikes but will try diplomacy first to thwart a regional conflict that would send energy prices through the roof into an election year.

The need to quickly secure the vital waterway for global trade is underscored by logistics intelligence firm Project 44 data showing that 20% of containers passing through Suez are from Asia to European and Mediterranean nations.

“The best the world can hope for may be a moderate risk scenario, in which shipping is diverted for at least several months until the security situation in the Red Sea stabilizes,” Bloomberg Economics analysts wrote in a report.


The cost of US fighting Houthis in the Red Sea just went up

1 Vote


Despite millions spent intercepting militant drones and missiles, experts fear expanding targets may risk a costlier regional war.

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

The Pentagon is marshaling a new international task force to combat Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, and not a moment too soon, it would seem, as it has been expending millions of dollars in munitions to intercept the militants’ drones and missiles since Oct. 7.

But is it essentially expanding the “target set” for the Houthis, who are clearly bent on proving their own strength (with, of course, Iranian backing) and scoring political points against Israel? Will this task force, named Operation Prosperity Guardian, bring the U.S. one step closer to a regional war that will, in the end, cost Americans much more?

According to the Department of Defense, the Houthis have conducted 100 drone and ballistic missile attacks since Oct. 7, targeting cargo vessels involving more than 35 flags from different nations in the Red Sea, including U.S Navy destroyers. Most have been intercepted, though some have hit their targets, causing minor injuries and damage. But with the hijacking of one ship, plus the major disruptions to shipping (the Houthis are blocking an estimated $10 million in cargo a day) and resulting price hikes, the situation has put security in the region on high alert.

It is also costing the United States a pretty penny to act as the key defender of these predominant global shipping lanes. Each munition used to shoot down the Houthi missiles and drones costs between $1 million and $4.3 million and the ships cannot reload at sea and will have to return to port — perhaps Djibouti? — to reload if the kinetic activity goes on much longer, according to experts that talked to Responsible Statecraft this week.

According to experts, the US Carney and US Mason destroyers (also joined by U.K. warships in some cases) could be using a mix of RIM66 SM-2 and RIM66 SM-6 interceptors as well as ESSM Sea Sparrows to take down the drones. The Carney is outfitted with SM-3s as well, but it is not clear that they are being used. This is all part of a “layered defense” that deploys different interceptors depending on the threat. The missiles mentioned so far in numerous interception reports have been the SM-2 and the Sparrows.

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According to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (as of 2022), the SM-2 costs $2.1 million per unit; the SM-6 costs $4.3 million; and the ESSM Sea Sparrows costs $1.7 million. The destroyers are also fitted with the Rolling Airframe missile, which cost $905,000 in 2022. One source suggested, however, not to assume the high end of the cost, adding that the U.S. Navy was likely cleaning out their old stocks and not using the latest versions of these interceptors.

The Pentagon spent $12.3 billion on its missile defense programs in 2022 and $24.7 billion on its missiles and munitions. There is a lot in the stockpile. Plus the countries called into the new task force will have their own capabilities. They include, according to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain. Interestingly it does not include NATO ally Turkey, or Saudi Arabia (which of course is currently tied to a ceasefire in its own conflict with the Houthis in Yemen).

Maybe cost isn’t the most urgent concern, then. Others who have spoken to RS said the threat of escalation — that the U.S. is close to engaging in an all-out war in the Red Sea at a time when its energy and resources are stretched in Ukraine and in sending Israel everything it asks for in the Gaza conflict — is key right now. Our Navy fleets — and U.S. troops/sailors in the region — are in harm’s way, and it is important for the American people to assess if what happens next is truly in the national interest.

The Houthis have said they will target the ships and U.S. Navy in the Red Sea until Israel stops its bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza. If this video is any indication, the new Operation Prosperity Guardian is going to have its hands full, and millions more dollars in U.S. missile interceptors will be expended before this situation is resolved.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is Editorial Director of Responsible Statecraft and Senior Advisor at the Quincy Institute.

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