14.04.2021 Author: Valery Kulikov

There’s No Disputing the Strategic Importance of the Suez Canal and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait


The transport collapse that was triggered by the recent grounding of a giant container ship called Ever Given along with the strategies that can prevent such collapses from reoccurring remain hot topics in the media these days.

About 12% of all trade passes through the Suez Canal, which separates Africa from Asia. Up to 10% of the world’s supply of liquefied gas, crude oil, and refined petroleum passes through this important trade artery. In this regard, it is not surprising that the safety of navigation along this sea route draws the attention of various players across the globe, as many of them remain dependent on such routes to maintain stability within their borders.

The actuality of such concerns has been confirmed by yet another incident that occurred in the Suez Canal on April 6, when an oil tanker Rumford that was flying the Italian flag got stuck there. It took an hour and a half for two tugs to pull it out. Following in Rumford’s tracks, the Greek tanker Minerva Nike found that it couldn’t proceed immediately on its route due to various difficulties. Throughout the delay, four LNG carriers from Qatar, supported by Egyptian tugs, were resisting the current in the same exact area where Ever Given had previously run aground. As a result, the total delay reached almost three hours. The gas carriers headed to Europe, although Rumford remained in the lake, apparently for the ship hull inspection.

It’s hardly a secret that sea routes and canals are by far the most important strategic objects. The Bab-el-Mandeb strait duplicates the Suez Canal and is also considered to be a crucial waterway from Europe to Asia and East Africa, as it connects the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea via the Red Sea. The crucial role that those routes play in world trade were among the considerations that prompted the United States and its NATO allies to seek ways of establishing control over those transport arteries in recent decades, creating their own military bases in their immediate vicinity to be able to exercising control over these sea routes.

In the light of yet another incident occurring in the Suez Canal it’s clear that in spite of the active and effective measures of the Egyptian authorities and the administration of this transport artery, the familiar infrastructure, that could seem at one point irreplaceable is objectively vulnerable, as the world has narrowly dodged yet another transport collapse. All this forces international players not just to contemplate alternative sea routes, for example the Northern Sea Route, but also to take real decisive actions to review the existing logistics operations and security guidelines.

Against this background, some Western supporters of conspiracy theories have started pushing a new string of unfounded accusations against Iran, China, and Russia, saying those states could in some way be complicit in organizing the blockage. However, such attempts leave one questioning the reasoning of those behind the accusations. Could they have played a role in the staging of the recent failure of international trade that occurred on the Suez Canal?

Thus, a warning that the blockage of the Suez Canal can become a source of inspiration for “rogue countries” has recently been voiced by The Times. The publication, in particular, speculates that terrorists, upon seizing a large ship and sinking it in this “bottleneck”, can easily provoke a food crisis in the Middle East. At the same time, The Times would make direct allusions to China and Iran by suggesting that someone at the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could be contemplating such options. The only possible solution to this problem, according to the British publications is, of course, the transfer of control over all the world’s maritime transport arteries to the naval forces of the US and UK! Although the newspaper admits that Britain has turned into an appendage of the US armed forces and only provides niche services within the framework of Washington’s rivalry with Beijing, as the British fleet doesn’t look intimidating to anyone anymore.

When building up the propaganda narrative, London’s fake media deliberately omitted the fact that it wasn’t Iran that would resort to terrorist attacks to undermine stability of the Middle East, but an ally of the United States and Britain. As a matter of fact, Israel keeps blowing up Iranian trade vessels. Certain Western publications admit that, like The Wall Street Journal, that says that over the past few years Israel has carried out at least 12 attacks against Iranian ships bound for Syria. Yet another Israeli terrorist attack on the Iranian auxiliary ship Saviz occurred on April 6 in the Red Sea, as reported by The New York Times and The Hill, and Tel Aviv admitted it.

Therefore, it cannot be excluded that at some point Israel will commit a terrorist attack to block the Suez Canal, especially in a situation when such a step will have minimal consequences for Israel itself and the state that sponsors it – the United States. As a matter of fact, when Washington inflicts any economic damage upon the European Union or China, it fulfills its strategy of “competitive survival”. After all, even the recent blockage in the Suez Canal that occured on April 6, where armada of tankers bound for Europe got delayed, threatened the economic prosperity of the European Union.

That is why the countries of Europe should not be lulled into complacency by the European officials in Brussels, as those are now thoroughly corrupted by Washington. One cannot rely fully anymore on the security of such sea routes as the Suez Canal and the Bab-el-Mandeb, especially in a situation when the United States wants those under its control. The US has shown Europe time and time again that it will always prioritize its selfish interests in any sort of competition.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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