Europäische Institut für Menschenrechte - Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -
      Europäische Institut für Menschenrechte - Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -

Global Power Struggles and the Impact on Transportation Corridors

Global Power Struggles and the Impact on Transportation Corridors


Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu


In recent events, the United States and the United Kingdom launched targeted attacks on Houthi rebel targets in Yemen, responding to continued assaults on ships heading to Israel. More than 60 targets were reportedly hit, contributing to an escalation of tensions in the Red Sea region. The heightened situation compelled major companies to redirect transportation flows to Europe through alternative routes, bypassing the Suez Canal and skipping Africa altogether.


A significant development was the involvement of the United Kingdom in the military operation. London, like many other cities, has a vested interest in the uninterrupted operation of the transportation artery, as it profits considerably from insuring ships passing through the Suez. The disruption of this transportation route not only affects logistics but also hinders the emergence of more interesting alternatives that have recently appeared.


However, countering Houthi activities in Yemen is not just a practical concern for the United States but has evolved into a serious matter of reputation. The deteriorating situation in the Red Sea dealt another blow to America's global plans before it could worsen further. Last year, it was Hamas that, by attacking Israel on October 7th, disrupted the reconciliation process actively pursued by Washington between Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed factions. This reconciliation was a key condition for launching a new transportation corridor stretching from the territories of these two countries to Europe, a project conceptualized after the G20 summit in September 2023.


So, the initial plans to establish a transportation artery due to the situation in the Gaza Strip were thwarted. Now, with Houthi attacks, an already functioning transportation route has effectively been blocked. What alternatives remain? Transport goods through Africa, as it currently stands, or seriously consider the financial, logistical, and temporal benefits brought by China's "Belt and Road" initiative for supplying goods from Asia to Europe.


Certainly, the U.S. cannot allow China, its main rival, to quietly implement its plans. Before the Middle East situation escalated, the score seemed to be in favor of the U.S., especially considering the uncertainty around launching the Belt and Road transit line over Russian territories amid the special operational conditions in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Moscow's transportation project, the Northern Sea Route, is also facing the strongest sanctions pressure.


Yet, the current situation is far from clear. The U.S. struggles to execute its plans, failing to resolve the conflict around the Gaza Strip. American bases in Syria and Iraq face continuous attacks from Iran-aligned Shiite formations, with a recent attempt to assault the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. In essence, the hegemon is being bitten from different directions, and it seems the U.S. has not practically noticed it yet. After such actions by the U.S., Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani raised the issue of withdrawing U.S. troops involved in the fight against ISIS from Iraq (an organization banned in Russia) upon Baghdad's invitation.


Washington attempted to put those it considered overly audacious in Yemen in their place. However, the result was a blow to a sovereign nation, albeit one in conflict with official authorities and even a group that managed to expel them from the capital Sanaa a few years ago. Despite the U.S. condemning Houthi actions shortly before American attacks, it failed to garner strong international support for decisive action, including at the UN Security Council. Russia and China, understandingly, abstained from the vote – after all, why let it fall directly into the hands of direct rivals and even enemies?


Now the question arises, what happens next? Husseins have already pledged retaliation, and Washington is not ignoring the possibility of new attacks on Yemen. No one can guarantee that the increased tension due to the situation around the Gaza Strip will subside, and the entire Middle East region won't turn into a war zone. Regardless of how events unfold in the near future, clarity on the crucial issue—limiting the influence of major players (Russia, China, India, the U.S., and the UK) on global trade and operations—through transportation corridors is uncertain. This uncertainty opens up broad possibilities for the aggravation of internal political crises, wars, and terrorist attacks wherever these corridors pass, involving many countries. After all, a significant amount of money is at stake, and over the next decades, the impact on global processes will be even more significant.


12.1.2024, Den Haag

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