Keeping the world’s maritime trade routes open is vital for the world economic balance. The reason for the outbreak of world wars was shaped by the struggle between continental powers and maritime powers for control of the seas. When this struggle moves to the stage of armed conflict, the maritime transportation system starts to be disrupted. In this framework, in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the UK, and then the USA until today, have ensured their hegemony and control of trade by directly and indirectly controlling maritime transportation on eight nodes and the routes connecting them. These nodes were the Straits of Hormuz, Malacca, Bab El Mendeb, Gibraltar, Denmark and Türkiye, and the Panama and Suez Canals. The challenge to this order by Germany in the First World War and by both Germany and Japan in the Second World War triggered the process of wars. In both cases, the main factor determining the inevitability of war was the decision of the maritime hegemon to intervene against the powers that wanted to access the sea. In both centuries, the Anglo-Saxon will did not want to share the seas with another power and wars became inevitable.


In 2023, 12 billion tons of cargo carried over oceans and seas for world trade, or 86% of world trade, passed through these eight vital nodes. The closure of one of these straits and canals due to war, civil war, natural disasters, accidents, etc. can upset global balances, especially energy markets. Historically, the Suez Canal was the longest closed one of these nodes. It remained closed from the beginning of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, known as the 6-Day War, until 1975.


In this century, China and Russia are the dominant maritime powers, challenging the Anglo-Saxon naval will. Their naval power and their nuclear navies enable this challenge. On the other hand, the quantity and quality problems of the US and UK navies and the record decline in the shipbuilding capability of both countries play an important role in this challenge. But at least as important as these factors is the succession of post-Cold War mistakes made by the United States in the areas of global leadership and oceanic gendarme. On the assumption that the end of history thesis and American power would last forever, they quickly became ruthless. They destroyed Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. They created the scourge of illegal immigration and the refugee problem in Europe, especially in Turkey.  Through the expansion of NATO, Color Revolutions and FETÖ-type structures, they have weakened these countries by shaping the government and opposition, especially in countries close to the nodes and on the margins (such as Türkiye). With the Greater Middle East and North Africa Project (GMNA), they brazenly announced that the borders of 22 states would be changed. After the destructive winds sown after 1990, the US is now reaping storms in the seas and oceans. Today, the US is facing serious challenges in the areas where it is strongest and its job is very difficult. Conditions are unfavorable in every field. Most importantly, developments in land-based armaments and drones have evolved to the extent of affecting activities at sea. The ganbot diplomacy of the 19th and 20th centuries is no longer as effective for coastal states as it was 100 years ago. Asymmetric armament and unorthodox warfare tactics can affect the freedom of action of a powerful naval force. For example, on July 14, 2006, during Israel’s intervention in Lebanon, the SAAR 5 class Israeli corvette INS Hanit, 10 miles off the Lebanese coast, was hit by Chinese-made CS 802 Silkworm missiles fired from the shore against a Hezbollah ship. The world’s most advanced corvette was almost sunk at a great loss of face to Israel. Another example is the sinking of the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the cruiser Moscow, on April 13, 2022. Who would have thought that Russia’s most powerful warship would be sunk by two Neptune missiles fired from land? Events at sea are now very much influenced by weapons on land.


February 24, 2022 Russia’s Intervention in Ukraine and October 7, 2023 Israel’s Gaza operation were the dates when the world maritime trade balances were disrupted. Russia intervened in Ukraine due to the ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians of Russian origin living in the Donbas region of Ukraine and the expansion of NATO to its borders. First Azov, then Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea coast became Russian military targets and maritime trade was cut off. Maritime trade, which had already declined due to the Ukrainian mine threat in the region, came to a standstill after July 17, 2023, when Russia and Ukraine declared merchant ships as legitimate targets. Only a limited number of merchant ships were able to continue grain trade. On the other hand, Russia, despite the heavy embargoes and sanctions imposed on it, did not pause in its crude oil trade. Especially with the Greek Ghost Fleets, Russian oil continued to reach the world markets.


On October 7, 2023, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict broke a new fault line in maritime trade routes one month later. The Iranian-controlled Houthis in Yemen, which has been in civil war since 2015, targeted ships carrying goods to Israeli ports in the Bab El Mendeb Strait, triggering the opening of a new front. Following these developments, many companies including Danish Maersk, British oil giant BP and Chinese company OOCL changed their routes to the Cape of Good Hope. This causes delays of 10-17 days in flights. In an environment where Israel uses disproportionate force and ethnic cleansing in Gaza, Yemen has opened a new front in an area where the world is most sensitive with its asymmetric strategy. After the Western Black Sea, the Red Sea routes have now turned into a risky area for maritime trade fleets. On December 18, 2023, the Bahrain-based US Naval Task Force CTF 153 launched the multinational “Prosperity Guardian” operation in the Bab El Mendeb Strait and the Red Sea to prevent Yemeni attacks on Israeli-oriented ships. In announcing the CTF coalition, US Defense Secretary Austin spoke of ‘rules-based order’. But how does he explain the killing of nearly 20,000 people in just over two months? The operation is called ‘Welfare Guardian‘. Whose prosperity? While women and children are being killed in Gaza with a brutality that would not have been seen even in the Middle Ages, the fact that this is the name of the operation reminds us of NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg‘s statement at the last NATO summit in Lithuania in July 2023: “We are defenders of 1 billion“. The other 7 billion may as well not exist for them.


The operation was initially led by the US with the support of the UK, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Seychelles, Bahrain, Canada and Italy. However, later on France, Italy and Spain declared that they would not be under US operational control, and that they would participate if NATO or the EU were to organize such an operation. (I believe that it would not be possible for Turkey to approve such an operation if NATO were to propose such an operation). On the other hand, although CTF 153 was established by the United States and Egypt on April 17, 2022 under the Combined Maritime Force (CMF), Egypt is not participating in the operation. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have the largest navies in the region, are also not participating. The CMF has been very effective in the fight against Somalia-based maritime banditry in the past. Turkey also provided ships to this force. But this time the situation is very different. This time the problem is geopolitical. There are Israeli, American, British, Japanese, Chinese, Chinese, Indian, South Korean, Spanish warships in the region, as well as an Iranian intelligence ship. However, only the US and the UK are in a position to allocate ships to CTF 153. In this context, the Australian government’s announcement last week that it would not allocate warships to CTF 153, and the failure of Chinese warships to respond to the call for help from merchant ships carrying cargo to Israel, show how weak, complex and delicate the US situation is.


In Yemen, the Houthis have a large number of cheap drones, ballistic missiles and anti-ship guided missiles, while the Western navies have a very expensive and limited arsenal. It makes little sense to spend this ammunition on Israel when it should be kept ready for a major conflict with Russia and China.  An alternative would be to convoy merchant ships through the Red Sea. But these ships would have to obey the lowest speed ship, increasing the chances of being hit. (  Meanwhile, Yemen has small boats capable of carrying high-speed explosives. These boats have not yet been used. But if the decision is made, they are very likely to attack and damage merchant ships, especially at night.


As long as the Gaza massacre continues, Houthi attacks on maritime trade routes will continue. These attacks will not stop without a US intervention on land, i.e. on the Houthi-controlled Yemeni coast. This would be tantamount to suicide for the United States. An air or ground attack on Yemen would escalate the Israeli-Palestinian war into an Iran-US crisis. The world economy cannot afford such a crisis that would lead to the closure of the Strait of Hormuz in a conjuncture where major shipping companies have already given up on Suez and Bab El Mendeb. In this context, the recent article by American Rear Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Allied Commander for Europe, suggesting that CTF 153 strike Iranian-backed arsenals in Yemen would be a move that Israel would most desire. ( This option is desirable not only for Israel but also for the American neocons who want a war with Iran. However, getting bogged down in such a new quagmire would undoubtedly be a nightmare for the United States, with its ship numbers in the toilet, while it would create a unique opportunity for China and Russia.


The US is not willing to stop Israel in the Gaza Strip. The UN has no function anyway. It will be very difficult for the Red Sea route to return to normal if Israel decides not to stop the operation, but to expand it.  Israel has opened a Pandora’s Box that is not only killing innocent Gazans, but is indirectly destabilizing the prosperity and stability of the entire world. Unless Israel is stopped by the US and the flow of weapons stops, the US global leadership will be severely damaged and its collapse will accelerate. Israel will continue to use its power for its own geopolitical goals until the US collapses.




Rear Admiral 

Cem Gürdeniz 

Rear Admiral Cem Gürdeniz, born March 24, 1958, in Istanbul, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1979. He completed a master’s degree in the USA (1983-1985) and served at the Turkish Naval Forces Command. He held various roles, including Chief of Naval Staff and Mine Fleet Commander. In 2011, he was acquitted in the Balyoz trial. Gürdeniz speaks English and French, authored numerous articles and books, and presented papers at international conferences. He wrote a regular column in Yacht magazine and coordinated Yeni Deniz Mecmuası. He wrote 375 articles in his column titled Mavi Vatan in Aydınlık newspaper between March 24, 2013, and May 24, 2020.

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