Amid an increasing number of attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the US military is increasing its cooperation with other countries' militaries in the region. According to the US Department of Defense in Washington, several countries are taking part in the new security initiative called "Operation Prosperity Guardian", including the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Seychelles and Spain. Greater cooperation between naval forces is intended to improve the protection of merchant ships.
The Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking Israel with drones and missiles since the Gaza war broke out and attacking ships in the Red Sea to prevent them from passing through to Israel. They threaten to prevent ships of any nationality from passing through the Red Sea on their way to Israel. Only freighters delivering aid to the Gaza Strip would be granted passage. Several ships have been attacked since then, most recently a container freighter belonging to the German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd. Large shipping companies are increasingly avoiding the route through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is currently in the region, said it was an international challenge that required joint action. All countries that wanted to maintain free shipping would have to come together. The “recent escalation of ruthless Houthi attacks” threatens free trade, the safety of seafarers and violates international law. The Red Sea is crucial for international trade.
Around ten percent of all world trade passes through the Red Sea. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, providing the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe. The alternative route around the South African Cape of Good Hope extends the transport by a few days.