bahrain joined the us red sea task force

Bahrain, a small island nation in the Persian Gulf, faces a serious threat from the Houthi rebels, a Yemeni group backed by Iran, who have launched more than 100 attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea since October 2023. The attacks have disrupted the flow of goods and services, increased the costs and risks of shipping, and endangered the lives and livelihoods of seafarers and civilians. 

The attacks have also posed a challenge to regional and international security and stability, as the Red Sea connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean, and the Suez Canal with the Horn of Africa.

The Response

In response to the Houthi attacks, the United States announced the formation of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational maritime security force, on December 18, 2023. 

The operation aims to deter and defend against the Houthi threats, and to ensure the freedom of navigation and the safety of maritime traffic in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandab Strait, and the Gulf of Aden. The operation is led by the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, and falls under the purview of the Combined Maritime Forces, a 39-nation naval partnership that operates in the region.

The Participation

Bahrain, a close ally of the United States and a Major non-NATO Ally since 2002, was the only Arab nation to join the Operation Prosperity Guardian, along with other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, Spain, France, Italy, and Sri Lanka. 

Bahrain’s participation is consistent with its longstanding commitment to the norms and rules that support the unimpeded global trade and the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law. Bahrain’s participation is also in line with its interests and values as a responsible and constructive member of the international community.

The Contribution

Bahrain’s contribution to the Operation Prosperity Guardian is mainly in the form of hosting and supporting the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is the largest and most powerful naval force in the region. 

Bahrain provides the Fifth Fleet with access to its ports, facilities, and airspace, as well as logistical, operational, and intelligence assistance. Bahrain also hosts the headquarters of the Combined Maritime Forces, which coordinates the activities of the various task forces under its command, including the Task Force 153, which focuses on the security of the Red Sea.

Bahrain’s contribution reflects its strategic location and role in the region, as well as its close and longstanding partnership with the United States. Bahrain also benefits from the protection and relevance that the US presence and cooperation provide, especially in the face of the perceived existential threat from Iran, which Bahrain accuses of meddling in its internal affairs and supporting subversive groups. 

Bahrain also seeks to enhance its economic and diplomatic ties with other countries that are part of the Operation Prosperity Guardian, such as Israel, with which Bahrain established formal relations in 2020.