U.S. Launches ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ to Secure Red Sea Navigation

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday announced the creation of a multinational operation to safeguard commerce in the Red Sea following a series of missile and drone attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis.

The new multinational security initiative, Operation Prosperity Guardian, will work under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of its Task Force 153, which focuses on security in the Red Sea.

Austin, who is in his fourth trip to Israel as Secretary of Defense, said participating countries include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

“Operation Prosperity Guardian is bringing together multiple countries to include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain, to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity,” Austin said.

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action. Therefore, today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative,” Austin said in a statement on Monday.

The official launching of the multi-national operation comes after an escalation in Yemen’s Houthi attacks on merchant ships that has raised concerns for the safety of global trade, with the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden becoming increasingly volatile.

Several leading shipping companies have announced in the past few days that they will pause all container shipments and some services will be rerouted to go via the Cape of Good Hope instead, because of the risk to their crews and vessels.

“The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade,” Secretary Austin said in a statement.

“Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor launching ballistic missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) at merchant vessels from many nations lawfully transiting international waters.”