The Biden national security team is learning a hard lesson the hard way. Forming an international force to patrol and defend a body of water takes leadership, a clear objective, and a willingness to take the fight to the enemy. The US, up to this point, has done none of that – and the results are what you would expect. Even strong NATO allies are backtracking on the joint Red Sea operation.
After over two months of Iran-supplied and directed Houthi terrorists’ attacks on Red Sea merchant shipping, as Liberty Nation reported, the Pentagon announced formation of an international force to stop the Yemeni Houthis. What the Biden national security team should have expected was unity of purpose for the nearly 20-nation Operation Prosperity Guardian, the name given to the effort to defend shipping through the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Straits. It appears now that aspiration may been a little premature.
Initial Indications of Allies’ Support Quickly Waned
Early in the spate of Iran-backed Houthi attacks, Italy demonstrated some modest willingness to be part of the multi-national force, contributing the Virginio Fasan, a multi-mission frigate, to the operation. Spain seemed enthusiastic to participate, but didn’t indicate the level of play or resources it might contribute to the maritime coalition. A Reuters account portrays a multi-national maritime defensive force in disarray – anything but unity of purpose. The news service explained:
“Italy’s defense ministry said that it would send a ship to the Red Sea following requests from Italian ship owners and not as part of the US operation. France said it supports efforts to secure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea but that its ships would remain under French command. Spain has said it will not join Operation Prosperity Guardian and opposes using an existing EU anti-piracy mission, Atalanta, to protect Red Sea shipping.”
The conundrum the US got itself into stemmed from the foolish pronouncements the Biden national security team kept pushing. First, the US insisted the defending merchant shipping in the Red Sea area was an international problem and needed an international solution. Well, Mr. Biden you got an international solution with all that self-interest and unity you wanted.
Second, it has been timid and failed to be proactive when going on the offense has been called for clearly. A purely reactive stance does not instill confidence that the US is inclined to eliminate threats. The Pentagon has been slow to respond to Iran-backed proxies showering attacks on US military outposts and bases in Syria and Iraq. When America fails to confront these threats head-on and destroy the perpetrators, it undermines credibility. Third, when the US Navy, which one would argue is the most powerful maritime force in the world, does not attack the source of the Iran-sponsored Houthi terrorist attacks on international shipping transiting international waters, then allies lose confidence.
No Excuse for Biden’s Lackluster Red Sea Operation
Many of the reluctant allies claim that the reason for their caution is not wishing to appear pro-Israel. But the Biden defense team can’t use that excuse. The Pentagon, the president, the secretary of state, and the national security advisor routinely crow about how pro-Israel they are, albeit while at the same time criticizing the Israel Defense Force for being too aggressive in defeating the murderous Hamas thugs and Palestinian sympathizers.
Worse yet, US adversaries’ and enemies’ persistent attacks will continue. White House press statements tout their military activities in the Middle East, particularly the Gulf Region, as effective deterrence. They are not. Someone needs to tell Mr. Biden that the administration’s “deterrence” isn’t working when your adversary keeps attacking you with increased enthusiasm. Iran is not afraid of the president’s posturing.
The Iran-supported Houthis continue to attack commercial shipping, and the US continues to shoot down the terrorists’ missiles, drones, and rockets. Approximately 100 weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles have been shot down since the Israel-Hamas war began. Furthermore, Houthis have attacked over 21 international merchant vessels, playing havoc with commercial shipping. Biden’s desire to not escalate the already escalated conflict, which started when Hamas savages attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, has turned into a contest to see whether the Houthis will run out of Iran-supplied drones and cruise and ballistic missiles before the US missile destroyers run dry.
Americans watching the Biden administration’s feckless Middle East policy are becoming disenchanted with the White House’s approach to the conflict in the Gulf Region. “Diplomatic outreach to Tehran had been a core component of Biden’s foreign policy agenda (which just 35 percent of Americans approve of, per Quinnipiac polling), and America’s inability to present a credible military threat against Tehran will only harm perceptions of Biden’s handling of America’s foreign policy,” an opinion piece in The Hill offered. So, if Biden’s national security team believes they are impressing US citizens with their restraint, they aren’t.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.