Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson
Israeli military forces patrolling Israel's Red Sea coastline.

Three European nations have pulled out of a multinational coalition organized by the United States that is aimed at countering the Iranian-backed Houthi threat to Red Sea maritime traffic.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced during his visit to Israel last week that US would lead “Operation Prosperity Guardian”, a multinational force to protect commercial shipping in the waterway.


More than 20 countries had agreed to participate in the coalition, including the UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain. Last Thursday, Austin said Greece and Australia were also joining the effort, with eight other nations participating as silent partners.

But since the announcement, three European nations have withdrawn.

France, Italy and Spain have all reconsidered their membership in the coalition, saying they each prefer their vessels to remain under their own nations’ commands.

France already has a naval base in the United Arab Emirates, and its frigate Languedoc is already in the Red Sea, according to Reuters.

Italy has pledged to send its naval frigate Viginio Fasan in response to specific requests by Italian ship owners.

Spain said it would participate only in NATO-led missions or those coordinated by the European Union.

So much for European solidarity.

Nevertheless, the UK remains a staunch friend and said it is sending the HMS Diamond destroyer to join the US-led mission.

Greece is also sending a naval frigate to join the force in the Red Sea.

Netherlands and Norway have each pledged to send officers.

A Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 39-member multi-national naval partnership led by the Bahrain-based US Navy Fifth Fleet, already exists. The CMF, which includes NATO and European states, regional countries and several other nations, has as one of its missions the Combined Task Force 153 (CTF 153), which operates in the Red Sea.

Two other naval coalitions also operate in the area: Operation Atalanta, set up by European Union Naval Force Somalia to protect the seas from piracy, and Operation Agenor, a European-led mission to protect maritime transit in the Strait of Hormuz.

The point of Operation Prosperity Guardian is not really clear, with vessels from multiple nations already operating in the Red Sea. Nor is it clear why those vessels seem unable to protect Israeli-linked commercial vessels from attacks by the Houthis in Yemen.

Perhaps it has something to do with those same nations’ unwillingness to stand with Israel during votes at the United Nations?

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.