Category: Strategic And International

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The European stance towards maritime navigation security in the Bab al-Mandab Strait

Strategic And International

The European stance towards maritime

On the tenth of January, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution No. 2722 regarding threats to maritime navigation in the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea. After extensive deliberation on the necessity of respecting the international legal framework endorsed by all countries worldwide to regulate maritime rights—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982—and in reference to the threats posed by the Houthi forces to maritime navigation, the resolution included eleven paragraphs condemning Houthi attacks on commercial ships. It called for the respect of freedom of maritime navigation, addressing the causes of regional tensions affecting maritime security. Additionally, it urged support for the maritime capabilities of coastal states in the region to contribute to maintaining maritime security. 

The resolution received support from 11 members, while 4 abstained from voting, namely Russia, China, Algeria, and Mozambique.Although the issuance of resolutions by the Security Council to preserve international peace and security is within its inherent jurisdiction, there has been debate surrounding three questions. First: 

Is this resolution considered a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance? Second: Does the resolution include all international powers that could participate in protecting maritime navigation, similar to UN resolutions against piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008? Third: Is the resolution binding on all countries to participate in efforts to protect maritime navigation?These questions arise due to the abstention of two permanent members of the Council, Russia and China, and the establishment of some international organizations, such as NATO, as foundations for participating in any military operations. Furthermore, there are precedents where UN resolutions explicitly indicated the authority to defend ships in crises, such as during the Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.Without delving into extensive legal debates, addressing the first question about whether the resolution is essentially a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance draws attention to the third paragraph of the resolution’s preamble. It emphasizes the obligation to respect the exercise of commercial ships and transportation rights according to international law. 

It also acknowledges the right of member states under international law to defend their ships against attacks undermining maritime rights and freedoms. While this paragraph does not explicitly state that the resolution is a basis for the alliance, the nature of UN resolutions is often flexible, and clarity on such matters is not always explicitly articulated, as seen in previous crises, such as the case of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

To answer the second question when comparing the content of the decision with similar decisions related to maritime security, including decisions to confront piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008, especially Resolution 1816, which urged for the first time states and regional organizations to send naval forces off the coast of Somalia and the western part of the Indian Ocean to counter piracy threats, we find a vast gap between the content of the two decisions, particularly from two perspectives: Firstly, the decision to combat piracy specifically referred to regional organizations and was the legal basis for NATO’s decision to send forces under the name “Operation Ocean Shield,” which began its operations on August 17, 2009. 

The second difference is that the decision to counter piracy included a request for states to send naval forces, while the UN decision regarding Houthi threats included the right of states to defend their ships without specifying the means to achieve that.Moving on to the answer to the third question, based on what has been mentioned, the logical result is that the UN decision regarding countering Houthi threats to maritime navigation is not binding on all states to participate in any maritime arrangements to confront those threats. 

If NATO decides to participate as an organization, it would need a new, clearer UN decision; otherwise, its member states could participate either individually within American efforts or under the umbrella of the European Union.In my estimation, monitoring and analyzing the contents of UN decisions regarding crises that pose a threat to international peace and security are crucial because, in some crises, these decisions have been decisive in ending conflicts. For example, Security Council decisions regarding the threat to maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, some of which led to the end of the war and the cessation of hostilities, such as Resolution 598 on July 20, 1987. However, at the same time, attention should be paid to three matters: 

Firstly, in some cases, the opposition of some permanent members of the Security Council or abstention from voting was not an obstacle to efforts to maintain international peace and security. For example, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 without a UN resolution, but later resolutions legitimized the invasion and subsequent actions in Iraq. Secondly, it is always necessary to compare legal contents with reality. Regardless of the content of resolutions, the question arises: Who implements them? The answer, simply put by a NATO official, is that the United Nations does not have an army, but NATO does. Thirdly, all UN resolutions do not explicitly state the participation of specific parties in maintaining international peace and security, leaving paragraphs in general terms, which gives different interpretations to international parties.

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

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Three Days in the Arab House

Three Days in the Arab House

Strategic And International

Three Days in the Arab House

On the tenth of January, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution No. 2722 regarding threats to maritime navigation in the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea. After extensive deliberation on the necessity of respecting the international legal framework endorsed by all countries worldwide to regulate maritime rights—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982—and in reference to the threats posed by the Houthi forces to maritime navigation, the resolution included eleven paragraphs condemning Houthi attacks on commercial ships. It called for the respect of freedom of maritime navigation, addressing the causes of regional tensions affecting maritime security. Additionally, it urged support for the maritime capabilities of coastal states in the region to contribute to maintaining maritime security. 

The resolution received support from 11 members, while 4 abstained from voting, namely Russia, China, Algeria, and Mozambique.Although the issuance of resolutions by the Security Council to preserve international peace and security is within its inherent jurisdiction, there has been debate surrounding three questions. First: 

Is this resolution considered a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance? Second: Does the resolution include all international powers that could participate in protecting maritime navigation, similar to UN resolutions against piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008? Third: Is the resolution binding on all countries to participate in efforts to protect maritime navigation?These questions arise due to the abstention of two permanent members of the Council, Russia and China, and the establishment of some international organizations, such as NATO, as foundations for participating in any military operations. Furthermore, there are precedents where UN resolutions explicitly indicated the authority to defend ships in crises, such as during the Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.Without delving into extensive legal debates, addressing the first question about whether the resolution is essentially a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance draws attention to the third paragraph of the resolution’s preamble. It emphasizes the obligation to respect the exercise of commercial ships and transportation rights according to international law. 

It also acknowledges the right of member states under international law to defend their ships against attacks undermining maritime rights and freedoms. While this paragraph does not explicitly state that the resolution is a basis for the alliance, the nature of UN resolutions is often flexible, and clarity on such matters is not always explicitly articulated, as seen in previous crises, such as the case of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

To answer the second question when comparing the content of the decision with similar decisions related to maritime security, including decisions to confront piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008, especially Resolution 1816, which urged for the first time states and regional organizations to send naval forces off the coast of Somalia and the western part of the Indian Ocean to counter piracy threats, we find a vast gap between the content of the two decisions, particularly from two perspectives: Firstly, the decision to combat piracy specifically referred to regional organizations and was the legal basis for NATO’s decision to send forces under the name “Operation Ocean Shield,” which began its operations on August 17, 2009. 

The second difference is that the decision to counter piracy included a request for states to send naval forces, while the UN decision regarding Houthi threats included the right of states to defend their ships without specifying the means to achieve that.Moving on to the answer to the third question, based on what has been mentioned, the logical result is that the UN decision regarding countering Houthi threats to maritime navigation is not binding on all states to participate in any maritime arrangements to confront those threats. 

If NATO decides to participate as an organization, it would need a new, clearer UN decision; otherwise, its member states could participate either individually within American efforts or under the umbrella of the European Union.In my estimation, monitoring and analyzing the contents of UN decisions regarding crises that pose a threat to international peace and security are crucial because, in some crises, these decisions have been decisive in ending conflicts. For example, Security Council decisions regarding the threat to maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, some of which led to the end of the war and the cessation of hostilities, such as Resolution 598 on July 20, 1987. However, at the same time, attention should be paid to three matters: 

Firstly, in some cases, the opposition of some permanent members of the Security Council or abstention from voting was not an obstacle to efforts to maintain international peace and security. For example, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 without a UN resolution, but later resolutions legitimized the invasion and subsequent actions in Iraq. Secondly, it is always necessary to compare legal contents with reality. Regardless of the content of resolutions, the question arises: Who implements them? The answer, simply put by a NATO official, is that the United Nations does not have an army, but NATO does. Thirdly, all UN resolutions do not explicitly state the participation of specific parties in maintaining international peace and security, leaving paragraphs in general terms, which gives different interpretations to international parties.

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

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The Riyadh World Defense Exhibition and the Strategy of Localizing Defense Industries

Strategic And International

The Riyadh World Defense Exhibition and the Strategy of Localizing Defense Industries

On the tenth of January, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution No. 2722 regarding threats to maritime navigation in the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea. After extensive deliberation on the necessity of respecting the international legal framework endorsed by all countries worldwide to regulate maritime rights—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982—and in reference to the threats posed by the Houthi forces to maritime navigation, the resolution included eleven paragraphs condemning Houthi attacks on commercial ships. It called for the respect of freedom of maritime navigation, addressing the causes of regional tensions affecting maritime security. Additionally, it urged support for the maritime capabilities of coastal states in the region to contribute to maintaining maritime security. 

The resolution received support from 11 members, while 4 abstained from voting, namely Russia, China, Algeria, and Mozambique.Although the issuance of resolutions by the Security Council to preserve international peace and security is within its inherent jurisdiction, there has been debate surrounding three questions. First: 

Is this resolution considered a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance? Second: Does the resolution include all international powers that could participate in protecting maritime navigation, similar to UN resolutions against piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008? Third: Is the resolution binding on all countries to participate in efforts to protect maritime navigation?These questions arise due to the abstention of two permanent members of the Council, Russia and China, and the establishment of some international organizations, such as NATO, as foundations for participating in any military operations. Furthermore, there are precedents where UN resolutions explicitly indicated the authority to defend ships in crises, such as during the Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.Without delving into extensive legal debates, addressing the first question about whether the resolution is essentially a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance draws attention to the third paragraph of the resolution’s preamble. It emphasizes the obligation to respect the exercise of commercial ships and transportation rights according to international law. 

It also acknowledges the right of member states under international law to defend their ships against attacks undermining maritime rights and freedoms. While this paragraph does not explicitly state that the resolution is a basis for the alliance, the nature of UN resolutions is often flexible, and clarity on such matters is not always explicitly articulated, as seen in previous crises, such as the case of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

To answer the second question when comparing the content of the decision with similar decisions related to maritime security, including decisions to confront piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008, especially Resolution 1816, which urged for the first time states and regional organizations to send naval forces off the coast of Somalia and the western part of the Indian Ocean to counter piracy threats, we find a vast gap between the content of the two decisions, particularly from two perspectives: Firstly, the decision to combat piracy specifically referred to regional organizations and was the legal basis for NATO’s decision to send forces under the name “Operation Ocean Shield,” which began its operations on August 17, 2009. 

The second difference is that the decision to counter piracy included a request for states to send naval forces, while the UN decision regarding Houthi threats included the right of states to defend their ships without specifying the means to achieve that.Moving on to the answer to the third question, based on what has been mentioned, the logical result is that the UN decision regarding countering Houthi threats to maritime navigation is not binding on all states to participate in any maritime arrangements to confront those threats. 

If NATO decides to participate as an organization, it would need a new, clearer UN decision; otherwise, its member states could participate either individually within American efforts or under the umbrella of the European Union.In my estimation, monitoring and analyzing the contents of UN decisions regarding crises that pose a threat to international peace and security are crucial because, in some crises, these decisions have been decisive in ending conflicts. For example, Security Council decisions regarding the threat to maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, some of which led to the end of the war and the cessation of hostilities, such as Resolution 598 on July 20, 1987. However, at the same time, attention should be paid to three matters: 

Firstly, in some cases, the opposition of some permanent members of the Security Council or abstention from voting was not an obstacle to efforts to maintain international peace and security. For example, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 without a UN resolution, but later resolutions legitimized the invasion and subsequent actions in Iraq. Secondly, it is always necessary to compare legal contents with reality. Regardless of the content of resolutions, the question arises: Who implements them? The answer, simply put by a NATO official, is that the United Nations does not have an army, but NATO does. Thirdly, all UN resolutions do not explicitly state the participation of specific parties in maintaining international peace and security, leaving paragraphs in general terms, which gives different interpretations to international parties.

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

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Contents of United Nations Resolutions Regarding Threats to Maritime Navigation

Strategic And International

Contents of United Nations Resolutions Regarding Threats to Maritime Navigation

On the tenth of January, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution No. 2722 regarding threats to maritime navigation in the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea. After extensive deliberation on the necessity of respecting the international legal framework endorsed by all countries worldwide to regulate maritime rights—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982—and in reference to the threats posed by the Houthi forces to maritime navigation, the resolution included eleven paragraphs condemning Houthi attacks on commercial ships. It called for the respect of freedom of maritime navigation, addressing the causes of regional tensions affecting maritime security. Additionally, it urged support for the maritime capabilities of coastal states in the region to contribute to maintaining maritime security. 

The resolution received support from 11 members, while 4 abstained from voting, namely Russia, China, Algeria, and Mozambique.Although the issuance of resolutions by the Security Council to preserve international peace and security is within its inherent jurisdiction, there has been debate surrounding three questions. First: 

Is this resolution considered a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance? Second: Does the resolution include all international powers that could participate in protecting maritime navigation, similar to UN resolutions against piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008? Third: Is the resolution binding on all countries to participate in efforts to protect maritime navigation?These questions arise due to the abstention of two permanent members of the Council, Russia and China, and the establishment of some international organizations, such as NATO, as foundations for participating in any military operations. Furthermore, there are precedents where UN resolutions explicitly indicated the authority to defend ships in crises, such as during the Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.Without delving into extensive legal debates, addressing the first question about whether the resolution is essentially a legal basis for the Prosperity Guardian Alliance draws attention to the third paragraph of the resolution’s preamble. It emphasizes the obligation to respect the exercise of commercial ships and transportation rights according to international law. 

It also acknowledges the right of member states under international law to defend their ships against attacks undermining maritime rights and freedoms. While this paragraph does not explicitly state that the resolution is a basis for the alliance, the nature of UN resolutions is often flexible, and clarity on such matters is not always explicitly articulated, as seen in previous crises, such as the case of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

To answer the second question when comparing the content of the decision with similar decisions related to maritime security, including decisions to confront piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 2008, especially Resolution 1816, which urged for the first time states and regional organizations to send naval forces off the coast of Somalia and the western part of the Indian Ocean to counter piracy threats, we find a vast gap between the content of the two decisions, particularly from two perspectives: Firstly, the decision to combat piracy specifically referred to regional organizations and was the legal basis for NATO’s decision to send forces under the name “Operation Ocean Shield,” which began its operations on August 17, 2009. 

The second difference is that the decision to counter piracy included a request for states to send naval forces, while the UN decision regarding Houthi threats included the right of states to defend their ships without specifying the means to achieve that.Moving on to the answer to the third question, based on what has been mentioned, the logical result is that the UN decision regarding countering Houthi threats to maritime navigation is not binding on all states to participate in any maritime arrangements to confront those threats. 

If NATO decides to participate as an organization, it would need a new, clearer UN decision; otherwise, its member states could participate either individually within American efforts or under the umbrella of the European Union.In my estimation, monitoring and analyzing the contents of UN decisions regarding crises that pose a threat to international peace and security are crucial because, in some crises, these decisions have been decisive in ending conflicts. For example, Security Council decisions regarding the threat to maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, some of which led to the end of the war and the cessation of hostilities, such as Resolution 598 on July 20, 1987. However, at the same time, attention should be paid to three matters: 

Firstly, in some cases, the opposition of some permanent members of the Security Council or abstention from voting was not an obstacle to efforts to maintain international peace and security. For example, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 without a UN resolution, but later resolutions legitimized the invasion and subsequent actions in Iraq. Secondly, it is always necessary to compare legal contents with reality. Regardless of the content of resolutions, the question arises: Who implements them? The answer, simply put by a NATO official, is that the United Nations does not have an army, but NATO does. Thirdly, all UN resolutions do not explicitly state the participation of specific parties in maintaining international peace and security, leaving paragraphs in general terms, which gives different interpretations to international parties.

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

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Is NATO participating in the Prosperity Alliance?

Strategic And International

Is NATO participating in the Prosperity Alliance?

In the midst of the debate surrounding regional and international contributions to the maritime operation declared by the United States to protect maritime navigation in the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea, known as the “Guardian of Prosperity” in December 2023, there have been various questions arising from the participation and withdrawal of some countries. These questions revolve around the potential involvement of the NATO alliance in this operation, and they are justified either by the maritime capabilities of the alliance, its regional partnerships, where maritime security has been an area of cooperation, or by examining the alliance’s past experiences in maritime security.
NATO possesses a vast naval force divided into several groups, with its leadership rotating among alliance member countries. Regarding partnerships, as part of the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative launched by NATO in 1994 with seven Mediterranean countries, some NATO ships regularly visit the ports of partner countries. Additionally, the alliance provides advanced courses for naval forces personnel from these countries within its academic institutions. This complements NATO’s efforts in the Mediterranean to protect maritime security, including the Maritime Guardian alliance launched in 2016. This alliance conducts naval patrols in the central Mediterranean, focusing on maritime warnings, counterterrorism, and capacity building. These objectives are pursued by NATO in collaboration with some partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative.
The current operation can be seen as an extension of the Active Endeavour operation initiated by NATO in 2001 as one of eight responses to the September 11 attacks. Active Endeavour aimed to inspect ships in the Mediterranean suspected of carrying terrorists or engaging in smuggling. Additionally, NATO deployed forces under the name “Ocean Shield” in 2009 to participate in international efforts against piracy off the coasts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
Does the above imply that NATO will be a party to the Guardian of Prosperity alliance to address maritime security threats in the Bab el Mandeb and the Red Sea? The United States has consistently urged NATO to engage in alliances, with NATO occasionally accepting and sometimes rejecting such invitations. In 2017, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced NATO’s joining of the international coalition to combat ISIS but clarified that this did not necessarily mean NATO would engage in combat operations. However, attempts to persuade NATO defense ministers to join the maritime security alliance in the Gulf, established by the U.S. in 2019 following attacks on oil tankers, were unsuccessful. Between these instances, U.S.-NATO cooperation was evident during the military intervention in Libya in 2011, where U.S. military efforts in the early days of the intervention were crucial for NATO’s success in toppling the Libyan regime at that time.
 And with the importance of the alliance’s experiences in working within coalitions, it does not necessarily mean that the alliance will automatically intervene in crises or become a party to the Prosperity Alliance for five reasons:

Firstly, regardless of the nature of threats, whether they come from the sea or land, the alliance has conditions for intervention in crises outside its territories. These conditions include the necessity of UN resolutions, which the alliance relies on. While these resolutions may not explicitly mention the alliance, they indicate the involvement of regional organizations. Additionally, there is a need for consensus among alliance members that these crises pose a threat to the alliance’s interests.
Secondly, the lessons learned by the alliance are significant. Despite preferring to work within international efforts, previous experiences have an impact on the decision to intervene or not. The debate during the alliance’s intervention off the coast of Somalia in 2009 revolved around the effectiveness of slow-moving alliance ships against fast pirate boats. This debate echoes in the current situation, but with a different context and cost considerations.

Thirdly, part of the alliance’s defense strategy is the policy of deterrence, relied upon in facing threats outside its territories. However, the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea directly involve the alliance with the Houthi group and possibly Iran. This may require other regional or international parties’ presence, raising questions about the alliance’s role in addressing these threats. The alliance is keen to maintain partnerships in the region and avoid the military action’s impact on these partnerships.

Fourthly, realizing the nature of threats to maritime navigation as a direct threat to member states and regional partners, the alliance, while addressing these threats, is careful to preserve the partnerships it initiated in the region after the end of the Cold War, such as the Mediterranean Dialogue 1994 and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative 2004. It avoids affecting these partnerships with military action.

Fifthly, the new strategic concept announced by the alliance in 2022 prioritizes counterterrorism in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Sahel, in contrast to previous concepts that explicitly mentioned threats to energy security and specific ways to address them.
However, the above does not mean that the alliance will be a mere observer of these events for a simple reason: there is no single basis upon which Atlantic intervention can be built or not. Especially if developments in the Bab el Mandeb Strait, a strategic point for regional and global power competition, lead to a worsening situation and require intensive international presence. In this case, the alliance will not be far from it, regardless of the content of Article 5, which some see as limiting NATO’s military operations outside its territory. Some European countries have joint membership in both the European Union and NATO, but they may see their participation in any efforts to protect maritime navigation in the Bab el Mandeb under the NATO umbrella.
Regardless of the alliance’s participation or lack thereof, it is essential to confirm the role of the alliance in the global security system. When asked why the alliance intervenes in crises despite this being the United Nations’ role, the answer was simple: the alliance has an army, unlike the United Nations.

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

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Marine Environmental Disasters and Their Impact on the Region

Strategic And International

Marine Environmental Disasters And Their Impact On The Region

A Yemeni-UN Plan to Deal with the Sinking of the British Ship “Rubimar” and Avoid an Environmental Disaster” is a headline that various media outlets have covered in recent days. The summary indicates that an agreement is expected to be reached between the Yemeni government and the United Nations on how to deal with the British ship that was sunk by the Houthis in February 2024. The ship carries chemical materials and fuel. The International Development Organization in West Africa has warned that if the ship’s contents leak into the Red Sea, the area will need at least 30 years to recover from the pollution caused by the leaked materials into the sea, as the ship carries over 21,000 metric tons of ammonium phosphate fertilizer and 200 tons of fuel.

The news caught my attention for three main reasons: First, in my writings on crisis management and disasters, I have been among those who warned of the danger of a ship sinking due to a natural disaster or sea conflict, and the resulting extensive marine pollution affecting the region for decades. Second, Gulf countries have had experiences in this regard, notably during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, which included the “Tanker War” when an Iranian oil field was bombed, causing between 150,000 to 200,000 barrels of oil to spill into the Arabian Gulf, leading to the shutdown of almost all desalination plants in the Arab Gulf countries except Oman. The second experience was during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, where Iraqi sources indicate that the Iraqi regime opened Kuwaiti oil pipelines in the Arabian Gulf, causing an estimated 11 million barrels and 20 million barrels to spill into the Gulf waters, turning them into oil lakes. The third reason is the successful United Nations plan to transport over a million barrels of crude oil that was aboard the oil tanker “Safer,” which the Houthis had been holding since 2015 off the coast of Hodeidah. A leakage of that quantity of oil into the Red Sea would have been a major environmental catastrophe.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. With the unprecedented maritime security threats, we may face similar scenarios in the near future, especially with two facts: the use of technology in maritime conflicts, as the Houthis managed to attack a ship underwater for the first time on February 18, 2024, and on March 14, 2024, they launched an anti-ship ballistic missile towards the Gulf of Aden. Although it did not hit its targets, it’s a significant indicator that must be considered.
Given the importance of current efforts to maintain maritime security, a matter of concern for all countries worldwide, discussing marine environmental pollution should be a priority for all regional and international parties through continuous strategies. It’s not just about dealing with each case separately. While the United Nations’ success in saving the Red Sea from the sinking disaster of the “Safer” oil tanker was a significant experience, it required a budget of $142 million, with contributions from some regional countries toward that budget.

In my estimation, if the threats to maritime navigation in the Bab el-Mandeb strait pose a challenge faced by all countries worldwide, then its effects on the Arab Gulf countries are multiplied, not only due to the Gulf countries’ reliance on that passage in their external trade but also because marine pollution is the greatest challenge in light of promising development projects on the Red Sea coast. I believe that the Arab Gulf countries must pursue three parallel tracks:
First track: Making this issue a matter of concern for the Emergency Management Center of the Gulf Cooperation Council through integrated plans on how Gulf countries can collaborate to address the risk of marine environmental pollution suddenly, not only because it is related to the Bab el-Mandeb strait but also because, amid regional escalation, the Strait of Hormuz is not far from that scenario. This is evident from the developments witnessed by the naval forces of the Gulf countries in recent years, considering that studies have confirmed that 30% of oil spillage incidents worldwide occur in the Arabian Gulf region.

The second track: Conducting quality exercises in maritime safety either among Arab Gulf countries or between these countries and regional and international partners, targeting training on how to deal with maritime disasters, especially oil spills, and rapid rescue. This is considering that these are the same objectives targeted by naval exercises conducted recently in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

The third and final track: Designing simulation models with two aspects, one research-oriented and the other executive. For example, Western research centers prioritize the scenario of closing the Strait of Hormuz significantly due to the ongoing tension between the US and Iran. While Iran taking such action is unlikely and strategically erroneous, the idea is to focus on formulating worst-case scenarios and then preparing for them, which is the essence of strategic thinking. Therefore, simulating the response to an oil spill in the sea and its impact on the marine environment, as well as alternative plans for it, might be beneficial. It may also be useful to include this issue in the curricula of national defense colleges in the Arab Gulf countries and make it a topic for training courses that include the experiences of other countries in facing such disasters.

Considering the importance of the efforts undertaken by the United Nations to address maritime disasters, there is a need for regular regional efforts and preparedness because disrupting navigation in passages can be addressed through deterrence mechanisms, but marine pollution on a large scale is a danger that threatens marine wealth not only currently but also for decades to come. There may be a need for comprehensive maritime security strategies, which I believe are the essence of national security for countries described as maritime, including the Arab Gulf countries.

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Keshk

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