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Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in a statement issued by the Pentagon, announced the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, to guard international shipping in the Red Sea. The new operation will be organized under the “umbrella” of the Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces and its Task Force 153, which already focuses on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea. “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,” the Pentagon statement said.

During his joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant yesterday, Austin said that the Houthi ship attacks “are reckless, dangerous and they violate international law” and stressed that “this is an international problem, and it deserves an international response.”

An unnamed defense official told Politico that several other countries, besides those named by Austin, have agreed to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian, but preferred not to be named. Some 39 countries are involved with TF 153 but officials were working to determine which of them would participate in this latest effort.

Politico also reported that the U.S. has demanded that the UNSC take up Red Sea security and that it was a topic of discussion in a meeting that was held behind closed doors yesterday. In a letter to Security Council members obtained Dec. 18 by The Associated Press, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Houthi attacks targeting commercial vessels legally transiting the international waterways continue to threaten “navigational rights and freedoms, international maritime security, and international commerce.”

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