The United States has spearheaded a coalition comprising 10 nations to counter the recurring Houthi attacks on vessels navigating the Red Sea. This coalition, dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian, boasts the participation of countries such as Britain, France, Bahrain, and Italy. The primary aim of this multinational security endeavor is to safeguard maritime navigation in the Red Sea, a vital route responsible for transporting up to 12% of global trade.
The coordination of this coalition will be managed by the pre-existing Combined Task Force 153, established in April 2022 to enhance maritime security in the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Aden.
The recent formation of this coalition can be attributed to the intensifying attacks on tankers, cargo ships, and other vessels in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels with ties to Iran. These attacks have led to a substantial rise in insurance costs for ships traversing the Red Sea and have had a significant impact on global trade. Experts opine that the US-led coalition is likely to diminish the Houthi threat in the short term.
The Red Sea and US warships
However, sustaining such a program indefinitely may present complex challenges. Notably, the United States has deployed two warships, the USS Carney and USS Mason, in the Red Sea, and these vessels have successfully intercepted 14 drone strikes.
Furthermore, the United States has orchestrated the formation of a coalition to defend Israel, in response to the mounting attacks on Israeli territory and to uphold its strategic interests in the Middle East. Several key motivations underpinning the establishment of this coalition include the shared interests the US has with Israel, which encompass robust historical and economic ties, as well as an annual bilateral trade volume of nearly $50 billion in goods and services. Israel plays a pivotal role in the realization of the US's aspiration to foster an "integrated, prosperous, and secure Middle East".
Additionally, concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions and its backing of Islamist militants, particularly Lebanon's Hezbollah and Hamas, are shared by both the US and Israel. The US views Israel as a valuable ally in countering Iran's influence in the region. Moreover, the collaboration between the US and Israel in combating terrorism is well-established, with Israel making substantial contributions to US counterterrorism efforts. The US also perceives its support for Israel as vital for maintaining regional stability and preventing the proliferation of instability to other parts of the world.
One of the central objectives of the coalition is to protect maritime navigation in the Red Sea, which serves as a critical artery for global trade. This mission is a direct response to the escalating attacks on tankers, cargo ships, and other vessels in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. In essence, the formation of the US coalition to defend Israel is the result of shared interests, strategic concerns, and the imperative to preserve regional stability in the Middle East.
While the exact cost of establishing the coalition to defend Israel remains undisclosed, Congress authorized $520 million for joint US-Israel defense programs in FY2023, including $500 million for missile defense. Notably, the United States has provided Israel with a total of $158 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding, as of January 2023.
Although these figures underscore the extent of US financial support for Israel, they do not explicitly delineate the costs associated with forming and maintaining the coalition. It's important to acknowledge that the coalition involves contributions from multiple countries, and the precise expenses tied to its operations and maintenance are contingent on several variables, including the number of personnel, equipment, and other requisite resources.