Nearly half of the countries listed have so far not come forward to acknowledge their contributions or allowed the US to do so.
US President Joe Biden hoped to present a firm international response to Yemen’s Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping by launching a new maritime force, but a week after its launch many allies do not want to be associated with it, publicly, or at all.
The main reason has to do with disagreements between the US and its allies about the war in Gaza as Washington’s efforts to dissociate the Red Sea initiative from its military backing for Israel’s war in the enclave do not seem to have borne fruit. The reluctnce to join the force has only added to the perception of US growing international isolation over its position regarding the war.
Two of America’s European allies who were listed as contributors to Operation Prosperity Guardian – Italy and Spain – issued statements appearing to distance themselves from the maritime force.
The Pentagon says the force is a “defensive coalition” of more than 20 nations to ensure billions of dollars’ worth of commerce can flow freely through a vital shipping chokepoint in Red Sea waters off Yemen.
But nearly half of those countries have so far not come forward to acknowledge their contributions or allowed the US to do so.
Those contributions can range from dispatching warships to merely sending a staff officer. The reluctance of some US allies to link themselves to the effort partly reflects the fissures created by the conflict in Gaza, which has seen Biden maintain nearly unconditional support for Israel’s war in Gaza even as international criticism rises over the offensive.
“European governments are very worried that part of their potential electorate will turn against them,” said David Hernandez, a professor of international relations at the Complutense University of Madrid, noting that the European public is increasingly critical of Israel and wary of being drawn into a conflict.
From the start, Arab Gulf states, with the exception of Bahrain, have also steered away from public contribution to the force for fear of disrupting the Yemen peace process and appearing to support US military actions backing Israel.
- Differences on Gaza
While the US says 20 countries have signed up for its maritime task force, it has announced the names of only 12.
“We’ll allow other countries, defer to them to talk about their participation,” US Major General Patrick Ryder told reporters last week.
We’re not looking at a unified front that’s for sure!