US Navy Says New Task Force Will Patrol Red Sea Amid Yemen War – The North State Journal

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In this photo released by the US Navy, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Hunter Pemberton assigned to the USS Cole takes part in an exercise on the Red Sea March 29, 2022. The US Navy said Wednesday, April 13, 2022 that it will begin a new task force with allied nations to patrol the Red Sea after a series of attacks attributed to Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a waterway critical to global trade. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Stachyra/US Navy, AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United States Navy announced on Wednesday that it will set up a new task force with allied nations to patrol the Red Sea after a series of attacks attributed to Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a critical waterway in the World trade.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who oversees the Navy’s 5th Fleet based in the Middle East, declined to directly name the Iran-backed Houthis four times in his remarks to reporters announcing the task force. However, the Houthis have launched explosive-laden drones and mines into the waters of the Red Sea, which stretches from Egypt’s Suez Canal in the north to the narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the south which separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula. .

“In a macro sense, this region literally and figuratively powers the world,” Cooper said. “The area is so big that we just can’t do it alone, so we’re going to be at our best when we team up.”

Combined Maritime Forces Command, a 34-nation organization that Cooper oversees from a base in Bahrain, already has three task forces that deal with piracy and security issues inside and outside the Persian Gulf. The new task force will be commissioned on Sunday and will see USS Mount Whitney, a Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship formerly part of the Navy’s African and European 6th Fleet, join it.

Cooper said he hopes the task force of two to eight vessels at a time will target those smuggling coal, drugs, weapons and people into the waterway. Charcoal smuggling has been used by al-Qaeda-linked Somali al-Shabab to fund their attacks. Weapons linked by the Navy and analysts to Iran have also been intercepted in the area, likely en route to the Houthis. Yemen is also seeing migrants from Africa trying to cross its war-torn country to find jobs in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014. A Saudi-led coalition went to war on the side of the Yemeni government-in-exile in March 2015. Years of unsuccessful fighting have left the nation poorest in the Arab world on the brink of starvation. A truce around the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan appears to be still in effect for now.

The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for cargo and global energy supplies, making any mining in the region a danger not just to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world. Mines can enter the water and then be carried away by currents, which change seasonally in the Red Sea.

The Red Sea has been mined before. In 1984, some 19 ships reported hitting mines there, and only one was recovered and decommissioned, a UN panel said.

In the current Yemen war, Houthi missile fire in the Red Sea approached a US warship in the past. In October 2016, the US Navy said the USS Mason had been the target of two missiles launched from Yemen. Neither hit the warship, although the United States retaliated with Tomahawk cruise missile strikes at three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory.

The previous week, the Emirati ship SWIFT-1 had been attacked with a Houthi missile. The Emirati government claimed that the SWIFT-1 was at the time carrying humanitarian aid; UN experts later said of the claim that they were “not convinced of its veracity”. The ship was going back and forth in the Red Sea between an Emirati troop base in Eritrea and Yemen.

In April 2021, an Iranian cargo ship believed to serve as a floating base for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard paramilitary forces was attacked in the Red Sea – likely part of a larger shadow war between Israel and Tehran.

Most recently, in January, the Houthis seized the Emirati-flagged vessel Rwabee in the Red Sea off Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition claimed the ship was carrying medical equipment from a dismantled Saudi field hospital. The Houthis released a video showing military-style inflatable rafts, trucks and other vehicles on the ship, as well as guns. Another Yemeni missile launch in the Red Sea also took place in March.

So far, Israel has not announced its intention to join the Combined Maritime Forces, although the US Navy held exercises with it, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in November. Cooper declined to say whether Israel had expressed interest in joining the joint command.

And asked if the Navy has had further tense encounters with Iran as negotiations over its tattered nuclear deal appear to have stalled, Cooper described the situation as “status quo”.

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