End of the Empire is a once-monthly feature on all news relating to the transition from the unipolar world of the US Empire to a multipolar world.
On December 18th, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multi-national “coalition of the willing” to protect Red Sea shipping from attacks originating in Yemen. Billed as a 20-nation defense coalition, beyond paper it’s just the US Navy.
The contrast between previous such crusades called by the US across the Middle East and this one is a perfect yardstick to measure the decline in American imperial influence across the world.
Described as a multinational security initiative under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces” Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) will operate under the leadership Task Force 153, the 40+ nation naval security force based in Bahrain that patrols the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder brief the Pentagon that OPG will be a coalition of the willing whereby partner nations will contribute where and what they can. “Some of these contributions are military assets like ships and aircraft and other contributions include staff and other types of support,” said Ryder.
However, there is no evidence that any of the 11 declared nations of OPG are contributing anything other than token gestures to the coalition, which allegedly includes the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, Seychelles, and Spain, and which also allegedly includes 9 other nations which are never named.
The reality is that Spain has clarified she is not participating in OPG, France has called her involvement “conditional,” and Italy sent a single military frigate to the Red Sea to protect Italian shipowners’ property if called upon, but as part of her own operation un affiliated to OPG.
Furthermore, Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands will together commit exactly 13 naval officers to the effort, but neither ships nor aircraft. The Royal Netherlands Navy may have 1 ship deployed in the region already as part of a French security effort organized in 2022.
Australia, who was one of the most active participants in a similar crusade called by the US, codename Operation Enduring Freedom which invaded and ravaged Afghanistan for 14 years, is contributing neither officers nor weapons, but will be tripling her contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) under which operates Task Force 153, which if measured by personnel would mean 15 people.
Straits Times has confirmed Singapore is in participation but didn’t mention what a contribution from the city-state would look like.
That means 8 of the 11 named nations are not in active participation in any way that equates to stopping Houthi attacks on ships. Bahrain is the only Middle East nation engaged in the security effort, but DW estimates this is only because Bahrain hosts the US and Task Force 153 at a massive naval base on their territory.
Cruise missile to a knife fight
Partick Lawrence, international correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, described the effort as the US being “surrounded by court mandarins who tire of the imperial court”.
“The Houthis have to date mounted 100–plus attacks on ships sailing the Red Sea, news reports tell us. They are firing drones they make for $2,000 each,” Lawrence writes, this time for Consortium News. “In response the U.S. Navy is trying to shoot them down with missiles that cost $1 million to more than $4 million a copy”.
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles detailed this economic calculation was part of their restrained participation.
“We need to be really clear around our strategic focus, and our strategic focus is our region — the north-east Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Pacific,” he told Sky News.
The Houthis, officially called Ansar Allah, have said they won’t back down from the Pentagon’s “Coalition of Shame” even if it”mobilizes the entire world”. The Houthis officially announced, and have reiterated multiple times, that they will continue attacking merchant shipping “until the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped and food, medicine and fuel are allowed to enter its besieged population”.
15% of all the world’s shipping moves through the Bab el-Mendeb—the straits at the southern end of the Red Sea and entryway to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, an amount which Maj. Gen. Ryder described as “billions and billions and billions” in international trade.
The problem for the coalition nations gets very geopolitical, but involves a nearly-agreed upon permanent peace deal between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis who control Yemen’s capital, who have been at war for 8 years. The attacks on the shipping vessels haven’t swayed Saudi Arabia away from wanting to complete this deal, who see the risk of the Houthi’s ability to attack their oil refineries as simply intolerable.
Perhaps for this reason, the US, who have bombed many countries for less, have refrained from outrightly targeting the nation of Yemen, and are restricting OPG to defending shipping vessels and shooting at Houthi attack boats.
On even flimsier pretenses, the US once convinced the richest countries in the world to invade and remake Afghanistan into a Western Democracy, calling for a crusade that saw the mustering of over ten thousands troops from France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Italy, Norawy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal the UK—even Albania, Azerbaijan, and North Macedonia. Dozens of aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles were contributed by these willing participants to undertake the most absurd objectives.
The Pentagon simply doesn’t possess this kind of clout, and most everyone involved in OPG understands the outright participation in this action requires incredible amounts of coordination and intelligence surveilance to cover the whole sea and coast of Yemen. They also know that participating in it is more or less a declaration of support for the slaughter in Gaza, a political albatross that few are brave enough to bear around their neck at this late hour in the long story of Israeli’s oppression of the Palestinians. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: The US guided-missile destroyer USS Mason on patrol in the Gulf of Aden. PC: Petty Officer 3rd Class Samantha Alaman.