French naval efforts prove critical to maritime security in Middle East


France and the United States continue to demonstrate commitment to Middle Eastern prosperity and security through their anti-piracy missions and protection of commercial vessels at sea.

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The French Languedoc, a FREMM multipurpose frigate, sailing in waters in the Middle East. [File]
The French Languedoc, a FREMM multipurpose frigate, sailing in waters in the Middle East. [File]

US ally France has been making significant contributions to maritime security in the Red Sea amid continuing attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

French warships deployed to the region have repeatedly downed drones launched by the Houthis.

The French navy shot down two drones over the Red Sea, the Armed Forces Ministry in Paris announced February 22.

The navy, which has two frigates deployed in the area, detected a threat on the night of February 21-22 and "destroyed two drones," it said.

French naval forces earlier that week had also detected "multiple drone attacks originating in Yemen," before destroying another two of the unmanned aircrafts, the ministry said.

The Houthi rebels have been targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November, disrupting commerce and endangering the lives of civilian sailors.

About 30% of global maritime shipping cargo and more than 1 million barrels of crude oil pass through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea each day.

The United States and its critical ally France have held fast in the face of ongoing maritime aggression by the Houthis.

The two nations' rapid responses to these threats demonstrate an ongoing commitment to collaboration and to security, stability and prosperity on the high seas.

Starting last December, the United States forged a new multinational maritime coalition focused on protecting commercial vessels in the Red Sea from violence at the hands of the Houthi rebels.

More than 20 nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Canada, have agreed to participate in the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian.

France has collaborated with the US-led mission, focusing on escorting French flagged commercial vessels.

France, alongside Germany, Italy and Belgium, has also confirmed its plans to contribute ships to a new European Union (EU) mission launched February 19 to protect commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The mission -- called Aspides, Greek for "shield" -- is expected to be up and running in a few weeks with at least four vessels, according to EU officials.

France is set to provide the deputy force commander for the mission.

Partner for maritime security

France has long worked to ensure maritime security in the region and throughout the world by providing maritime security patrols and participating in naval exercises, such as the International Maritime Exercise and Steadfast Defender 24.

France is a critical partner of the United States in the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 41-nation security partnership established in 2001 to counter non-state actors in the maritime domain, overseeing the stability and security of more than 3.2 million square miles (8.3 million square kilometers) of international waters.

It consists of five task forces centered on counter-narcotics, counter-smuggling, anti-piracy and the promotion of regional security and stability through maritime training and collaboration with regional stakeholders.

France has engaged both as a task force leader and participant.

France from last July to this January led Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), which oversees maritime security operations outside the Arabian Gulf. This recent stint was the nation's 12th commanding the multinational task force.

In its six months under French leadership, CTF 150 seized 14 shipments of illegal narcotics.

France's tenure saw the interdiction of illegal narcotics with a street value of more than $600 million. Command of CTF 150 rotates among participating countries, and France passed the torch to Canada in January.

The nation also serves as a member of the recently established CTF 153, which focuses on maritime security operations in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb and Gulf of Aden.

France continues to recruit partners in promoting stability, security and prosperity in the region.

France in 2020 led the creation of the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) mission, which "aims to ensure a safe navigation environment, contribute to de-escalation of tensions and facilitate an inclusive, regional dialogue in the Strait of Hormuz."

Serving as the junction between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and most strategically significant choke points.

France regularly supplies assets to the military side of the mission -- Operation AGENOR, which focuses primarily on surveillance operations.

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By Allah, I feel that those countries are encouraging Houthi attacks on commercial vessels for a hidden goal.