by Raffaele Crocco
It is very simple. Until November 2023 it took 28 days to bring an Italian apple to India. It was picked, loaded onto a ship and that apple, along with others of course, crossed the Mediterranean, slipped through the Suez Canal, went down to the Red Sea and landed in the Indian Ocean. The same journey now takes 40 days: it has to circumnavigate Africa. Our apple is now being held back by the asymmetric pirate war in the Red Sea. A war that is certainly sudden, but certainly not unexpected.
It was known that the Houthis had decided to attack the merchant navy of Countries allied to Israel. In the great planetary game underway, this Shiite political-religious organisation (which came to power in Yemen in 2014 by overthrowing a Sunni government) is on the side of the new polarisation, i.e. those who oppose the United States and its allies. Not coincidentally, it is a pro-US alliance that decided to send ships to patrol this area. It is also no coincidence that the US and Britain have been bombing Houthi positions along the coast in recent days.
The link is simple. The Yemen of the Houthis is allied to Iran, the leader of the Shiite world. This has been the case since the unfinished days of the long war against Saudi Arabia, a fundamentalist Sunni country that had no intention of letting Shiites rule its peninsula. Yemen has thus long been on the side of Iran, which joined the BRICS on 1 January this year, along with six other countries. This acronym – made up of the initials of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is, let us remember, the economic and political organisation that opposes the G7 bloc, the old industrialised countries that determine the world’s economy. The BRICS propose different solutions to many countries of the world than those of the G7. They are trying to create an international currency to compete with the dollar in trade and they have created an alternative bank to the World Bank.
This is a real struggle for world domination. We have returned to an aggressive bipolarism that believes in the use of weapons as a means of settling disputes. So it is a struggle that involves confrontations and deployments. Ukraine knows something about it. In that war, Russia is aware that it still has the support of the BRICS Countries, in contrast to Kyiv’s alliances with the United States and Europe. In Gaza, the alliances are the same. They may turn up their noses, but the pro-US countries are supporting the Netanyahu government in its ethnic cleansing operation. And they have always allowed Israel to illegally occupy Palestinian-administered land, despite statements of principle. The BRICS bloc is on the side of the people of Gaza and the Palestinian cause. Do they really believe in the rights of an oppressed people? Probably not, but supporting them today means taking clear and opposite, and therefore functional, sides.
Back to the Red Sea. The Houthi attacks came about as a ‘political-military response’ to what is happening in Gaza. Note that the Shia Houthi – like Iran – are on the side of the Sunni Palestinians. This is unprecedented in the history of murderous hatred between the two visions of Islam. It has never happened before. But here they are, representing the same world view. So it is clear that this is not just piracy in the Red Sea. The Houthis are not a bunch of poor people trying to survive through attacks on boats. That was the case with the Somali pirates a few years ago.
What the Houthis are doing is a targeted and political action that is part of a gigantic global phenomenon of repositioning and overturning balances. The piracy of the Houthis is contemporary to many things. To the deployment of US fleets in the world’s oceans. To the new anti-Beijing alliances between Britain, the United States and Australia in the Pacific. To the re-armament of the Chinese navy. To the opening of new trade routes in the Arctic Ocean.
The world is moving, changing. And changing, knowing that whoever controls the sea controls the planet. Some 90 per cent of world trade still travels by sea. And cutting routes, opening new ones, controlling ports and tariffs means power. The great powers are aware of this and decided to play war again. For now, it’s a suburban war. But we cannot be sure it will stop there.
Read the chronology of events
On the cover photo, map of the Red Sea Region ©Below the Sky/Shutterstock.com