Home > Reports

Western naval ships in region may tell another thing, but not alleged war on piracy

  Article Date:
December 15
, 2008



The American and European movement in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arab Sea points to an international plan implemented under the slogan of "Combating Piracy" and leads later to a British dominance of the sea trade routes through the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab Strait, which is one of the most strategic straits linking Asia, Africa and Europe.

Navigation costs through Bab Al-Mandab are lower than other straits and over 20,000 commercial ships go through it every year as 30 percent of world’s oil also passes by it.

Piracy operations, the most famous of which was capturing a Saudi tanker boarding over 2 million barrels of oil and a Ukrainian ship boarding 33 Russian tanks and other weapons, reveal that pirates have developed techniques and capabilities behind which stand super powers.

Most attacks off the Horn of Africa are launched before the sight of the American Army that does nothing to ward off the attacks of pirate ships despite the fact that most ships sail in the routes decided by Americans. 

Pirates use ships with direction-deciding devices and fast lunches to expand their range of attacks.  The British Independent newspaper reported that the American Blackwater Company, working now in Iraq, offered their services to ship owners and navigation companies. 

Conflict over Bab Al-Mandab

Experts believe that the solution for piracy lies in forming a stable government in Somalia and this is what Yemen sought to achieve through the different meetings held in Sana'a to reconcile the fighting between Somali parties and warlords.

The answer to Yemen's efforts was pushing Eritrea to occupy the Yemeni Hunaish Island in the Red Sea despite the fact that Yemen allowed Eritrean revolutionists to store up their arms in Hunaish to use them against the Ethiopian regime. The island has also a lighthouse erected by the early 1980s that allows a strategic dominance and monitoring of the international routes in the Red Sea. It enjoys as well high military importance.

Yemen allowed Egypt to have a material presence in the Red Sea islands, including Hunaish, during its war with Israel in 1973. This was made according to an agreement between both sides signed on May 12, 1973.  

Britain leads the future

The absence of Yemen and other Arab countries which have interests in the Red Sea and their silence about what is happening in Somalia have helped super powers exist in the area under the pretext of protecting trade routes.

It was not enough for Yemen's Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi to express the country's concern from the intensive military existence of multi-national forces as this is an introduction for internationalizing the Red Sea water, a suggestion that was raised in the past by Israel and refused by Arabs.

The government has not benefited from the lessons of Hunaish Island which remained occupied for three years and restored back through international arbitration in 1998 to upgrade and arm the country's Coastguard Forces.

Commander of Coastguard Forces Ahmed Ali Rase' admitted, ten years later, that his forces lack infra-structure throughout the eastern coast, stretching from Aden to Al-Mukalla.

The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is the only waterway for Jordan, Sudan and Djibouti merchant vessels. This sea lane is also  very important for Egypt and Iraq and Gulf Countries particularly Saudi Arabia,  as their vessels pass this vital route.

Yemen and Somalia overlook the Indian Ocean and thus any threats pose there are mostly concerned by all these countries.

Midhat Talat, a military expert, warns that western parties acquire rights in the area as a result of interest misused legislations at the expense of Arabs' sovereignty.

He warns of the western military existence in the area under the pretext of fighting piracy which may lead to use the regional waters for western and Israeli interests and then to exercise pressure against countries  in the region.

If this could happen, external interventions into Arab states internal affairs would be more and then Arab states may also give military concessions, he says.

Biggest spy ship near the Gulf of Aden

Pirate acts affects Yemen very much, particularly after the Oil Ministry announced an international tender for drilling oil at off-shore fields which was won by a group of companies that included British and US firms.

Pirate acts, therefore, will affect the process of attracting foreign investors into these fields in particular which are considered one of the  quick solutions to face the decline of oil which currently represents 90 percent of Yemen's exports and 70 percent of the state revenue.

With President Ali Abdullah Saleh announcing the launch of the Liquefied Natural Gas Station in Belhaf which will start operating at the beginning of 2009 as a quick solution to the declined oil production, fears increase as Yemen  lacks sufficient tools to conduct anti-piracy patrols along its coasts which stretch more than 2000 kilometers. 

The French Total Company is the main partner in the LNG project with  a share of 39.6 percent, while the US Hunt Oil Company holds a share of 17.2 percent. Owing to the partnership, the French and US will gather at the Bab El-Mandab strait to protect their interests as companies are which set these countries policies.

Alistair Lion, a Reuters journalist- cited a Yemeni diplomat in Sana'a  as saying that the latest reports had revealed that Yemeni Navy  has  only 15 ships of which only nine are operating, with only two ships capable of sailing in very deep waters. He added that Yemen is inefficient to monitor deep waters in the Gulf of Aden area.

Michel Winshtine, an expert in Somali affairs and professor of Politics at the US Bordo University, says such networks operate from the United Arab Emirates but not from Yemen.

He adds that the interests of big businesses that encourage pirates and control them are centered in the UAE, describing them as migrant Somali businessmen without familiar ties with political or Islamic groups.

In October 2003, the International Policy Magazine released a report which noted that the US uses Djibouti as a base for the biggest and most modern intelligence center in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean along with almost 3000 US troops deployed in Djibouti and Somalia.

These arrangements come to contain any possible attacks by al-Qaeda at the Bab El-Mandab strait which is deemed the international petrol way which its security means to secure a waterway for international petrol.

The new strategy at the strait is based on a help from European naval fleets in particular German and Spanish naval ships to secure a large area starting from Jeddah, north the strait, to the island of Socotra in the Gulf  of Aden, south the strait.

And this is besides the attempt to have new station points at ports and airports nearby the strait, as the US seeks to prepare the Somali Hargisa and Barbarah airports in an effort to support the potential of the Barbarah airport overlooking the Gulf of Aden.

The US Mount-Whitney ship stationed in Djibouti is considered the most advanced intelligence center in the world.

It weighs 1.5 thousand tons and equipped with advanced communication and spy devices along with integrated laboratories to analyze images taken by US satellites.

It is the most important ship in the US naval fleet in the Atlantic Ocean that was moved to the strait according to the Pentagon data " to find out  terrorist activities". The US troops aboard it are about 1300.   

US security company runs the Alnoor City

In May 9, 2007, the Debka website affiliated with the Israeli Intelligence Services expressed its concerns about the construction of an Egyptian-Saudi bridge over the Red Sea, after the bridge of connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The bridge costs were estimated at $3 billion that would be paid by an investor consortium led by the Kuwaiti Khurafi Company, the Saudi OGEH Company and the Bin Laden Company. However, no practical steps to build the bridge have been taken yet, though preparations and designs have been completed. 

Saudi Arabia started lately to think about the Bab El-Mandab strait as she realized that Iran, which already controls Iraq, is behind it.

In response, Saudi Arabia decided to build the 21st Century Project of the Al-Noor City which is designated to link Yemen with Djibouti through a 28.5- km bridge to face any future possible clash.

The British Independent paper found out that some of the companies to implement the project were in good relation with the Bush administration, adding the main contractors belong to the Telecommunication Company of L3, a company that provides engineering and security consultations at the world level.