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European Countries Refuse U.S. Command at OPG

European Countries Refuse U.S. Command at OPG

The multi-national security initiative Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) aims to provide secure passage through the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden. For the United States, Tehran is doing more than politically supporting the attacks launched from Yemen by the Houthi rebels against maritime traffic in the Red Sea. The U.S. believes that Yemeni rebels receive sophisticated military equipment, intelligence assistance, financial aid and training and that Tehran made these attacks possible. 

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The U.S. wants to stop these attacks on maritime security in the Red Sea, through which 20,000 commercial ships pass annually. The operation is placed under the command of Combined Task Force 153 [CTF 153], which is subordinate to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).

The head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, indicated on December 18 that ten countries, including France, would participate in the coalition. 

Norway, the Netherlands and Australia will make up the figure due to a lack of naval and air resources that can be deployed in the Red Sea. Their participation will be limited to the sending of staff officers. Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles said the nation’s strategic focus had to remain on the Indo-Pacific. The AUKUS-Partner Canberra will instead send six ADF personnel.  The United Kingdom has announced that the “destroyer” HMS Diamond will join operation “Prosperity Guardian”, in which a Greek frigate will also participate. The participation decision has also caused concerns in Greece. 

However, despite being among the ten countries named by the Pentagon, France and Italy will not place their naval assets under the U.S. command.

Via a press release, the Ministry of the Armed Forces indicated that the multi-mission frigate [FREMM] Languedoc, currently deployed in the Red Sea, would remain under “national command”.

“The French Navy permanently deploys capabilities in this area, in a European framework with the Agénor and Atalante missions or through support for naval coalitions such as Combined Task Force 153, initiated by the United States for maritime security at the Red Sea. This operation allows the coordination of the resources of the different partner nations, which in the case of France remain under national command and guarantee our freedom of action,” the statement said. This, therefore, applies to ships but also to patrol or maritime surveillance aircraft.

As for Italy, it announced the dispatch by the Marina Militare of the FREMM “Virginio Fasan” to the Red Sea… to “protect its national interests, in response to specific requests from Italian shipowners”. Italy’s mission will fall under the “Mediterraneo Sicuro” operation and not that launched by the United States.

Spain has ruled out participating in “Prosperity Guardian”, its Ministry of Defence having affirmed that its naval forces, already present in the region as part of the European mission “Atalanta”, will only participate in operations led by NATO or the European Union.