The Geopolitics of Maritime Chokepoints Part 2 (of a 2 Part Series)

4. The Bab el Mandab

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is another primary waterway for the world’s oil and natural gas. Nestled between Africa and the Middle East, the critical route connects the Mediterranean Sea (via the Suez Canal) to the Indian Ocean.

Like the Strait of Malacca, it’s well known as a high-risk area for pirate attacks. Due to the strategic nature of the region, there is a strong military presence in nearby Djibouti, including China’s first ever foreign military base.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army personnel attending the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti on August 1, 2017. 

The Red Sea is a highly strategic arena for international and regional actors. Its role as a waterway for global trade makes the Red Sea region a key geopolitical interest. This, driven by the oil and energy sectors, is just one aspect of what the Red Sea region has to offer. While approximately 10% of all global trade passes through its waters, it is a critical zone for armed conflict, military entanglement, and great power competition and projection. One of the most visible aspects of this presence is the construction of foreign military installations around the Bab el-Mandeb Strait at the entrance to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Such installations could confront terrorist operations, or even support military expansion by several nations into the Horn of Africa. Opportunities for maritime trade and international commerce are often suffocated by the security situation. 

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait, situated between Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa and Yemen in the Gulf, is now more than ever affected by the economic and military entanglement of major players in the Red Sea region. The Strait, a vital “choke point” for the flow of oil and international commerce, and the shortest trade route between the Mediterranean region, the Indian Ocean and East Asia, funnels billions of dollars in maritime trade. Roughly 6.2 million barrels per day of crude oil products pass through the Strait toward Europe, the United States, and Asia, and over 50 million tons of agricultural products pass through it every year. However, as violence between Iran’s allies- Yemeni Houthi rebels, and the opposing Saudi-UAE bloc continues to escalate, fallout from Yemen’s war threatens the security of the Strait and the Red Sea as a whole.

The Geopolitical Equation

   A closure of the Strait altogether would have massive implications. First, because the Red Sea connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean–via the Suez Canal–to the waters of southeast Asia, it would force commercial maritime traffic to transit around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, drastically increasing shipping costs, transit time, and insurance costs. This would lead to higher prices for consumers on such items as fuel and food, and directly impact African, Asian, and American markets. It would also make Saudi and American counter-terrorism efforts in Yemen more challenging.

     Djibouti is a sovereign country .This tiny African port state hosts eight overseas military bases. Djibouti is situated at the mouth of the Red Sea.It is geographically close to the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, the oil rich Arabian Peninsula, and the strategic shipping lane of the Gulf of Aden.  The rise of sea robbery and piracy have recently surged the geostrategic and geo-economic relevance of the country. Djibouti has a singular strategic dimension with obvious interests to U.S. imperialism. It controls, with Yemen, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandab, the minimum width of which is 30km. Nearly 19,000 ships used the strait in 2020. The Bab-el-Mandab overlooks the entrance to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Not far away, two other gulfs, that of Oman and its Arab-Persian counterpart, linked by another strait, Hormuz.

This geographical advantage explains why so many international powers have installed military bases in Djibouti.  Djibouti hosts military bases belonging to Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Saudi Arabia at a very little distance from one another. Russia and India too have strong interests in setting up military bases there. The Djibouti government transferred Port of Doraleh, operating rights to Chinain return for infrastructure investments.

In the past week, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited Sudan and signed several agreements. The most important was that Sudan granted Russia a naval base. Let me explain the importance of this deal.  With the Ukraine war about to go global, Russia had to make sure that maritime access to the Mediterranean was available. This would ensure that NATO is unable to push Russia out of the Middle East. This move by Russia in Sudan ensures that Russia’s access to the Mediterranean is still on.

Then, see the map. Marked in red, is an island called Socotra, which belongs to Yemen. Both the US and Abu Dhabi have recently acquired bases there. Geopolitical control over the Bab el Mandab has sucked in many players. Everyone wants to make sure they have some “leverage” in the future when control over oil resources and its associated transport routes. This is important as the region will be more in the news in the coming years.

5.  The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an Egyptian waterway that connects Europe to Asia. Without this route, ships would need to sail around Africa, which would add approximately seven days to their trips. In 2019, nearly 19,000 vessels, and 1 billion tons of cargo, traveled through the Suez Canal. Seen from space, the Suez Canal stands out against the contours of the Asian and African continents, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea. Since opening in 1869, it has served as a maritime shortcut between the Asian, African and European markets. Today 12% of world trade passes through the human-made passageway.

In 2013, Saudi Arabia toppled the Morsi government (installed by the CIA), and installed Egypt’s military chief as its new leader Abdul Fatteh el- Sissi. This was a nationalist government. Saudi Arabia informed Sissi that the US has plans to block the Suez Canal, as one part of the plan to block oil exports from the region. The other part of the plan was to keep Egypt financially weak, thus making it easier for the 2 families to control Egypt. It is the largest Arab country, and it has the most powerful military in the Arab world. The Rothschilds fear this. Another Rothschild entity, the IMF, is putting the squeeze on Egypt.

 In order to insure the viability of maritime transit trough the canal and neutralize the American threat, in 2014, the Egyptian government oversaw at $8 billion expansion project that widened the Suez from 61 meters to 312 meters for a 21-mile distance. The project took one year to complete and, as a result, the canal can accommodate ships to pass both directions simultaneously. This helped to double the income from the canal.

In March 2021, the container ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal for six days, holding up nearly $775 million worth of goods on the ship and sending shock waves through global supply chains. With 85% of goods by volume shipped by sea, it was a reminder of how dependent our economies are on the flow of traffic along maritime trade routes – and how easily things go wrong

The Geopolitical Equation

When Egypt was in financial problems, they sold their half share to the British Rothschilds in 1880. The French Rothschilds bought the remaining half from the French company that built it. This ensured control of Britain’s “commercial artery” to its Asian colonies.

In 1955, under American guidance (the CIA had put Nasser into power in Egypt in 1953- the aim was to remove Rothschild control over the Suez Canal, and move control of it back to Egypt, which now was controlled by the Rockefeller’s CIA), Nasser nationalized the Canal. The Rothschilds used their three vassals –Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt. Washington was furious, and enacted financial and oil sanctions against all three countries, forcing their retreat and defeat.

In 1967, a war broke out between Egypt and Israel. Egypt sunk many ships forcing the closure of the canal, until 1975.

Over the next few years, as Egypt becomes stronger, the geopolitical importance of Egypt and the Suez Canal will increase. Now, we come to the most important of all the chokepoints in the world- the Straits of Hormuz.

6 .The Strait of Hormuz

Controlled by Iran, the Strait of Hormuz links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, ultimately draining into the Arabian Sea. It’s a primary vein for the world’s oil supply, transporting approximately 21 million barrels per day.

The Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, is one of the world’s most strategically important maritime choke points.  Iran remains an essential factor in global energy security, due to the high volume of oil and natural gas passing through the narrow openings on a daily basis. The sovereignty of  Iran extends, beyond its land territory, internal waters and its islands in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Oman Sea. Iran has used its sovereignty to threaten to close down the Strait of Hormuz multiple times, due to sanctions imposed on the country. This poses a serious threats to the global oil market, with the Strait of Hormuz as a key location. Iran’s capabilities are found in the country’s anti-access/area denial capabilities including small attack craft equipped with machine guns, multiple-launch rockets, anti-ship missiles and torpedoes. Naval mining has also been used as a strategy to threaten the security of the Strait of Hormuz. Lastly, the many naval exercises and unconventional methods used by the  Iran Navy, is a display of capability and shows readiness to take action in the choke point. The strategic value of maritime choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz means that the threats to the choke point influence sharp rises in oil prices. The several attacks which have occurred over the last decade against oil facilities and tankers in or near the Strait of Hormuz, has had a large impact on the oil industry. From the perspective of security studies, Iran is an important player in the international oil economy.

Historically, it’s also been a site of regional conflict. For instance, tankers and commercial ships were attacked in that area during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. 20% of the world’s oil is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. In 2018, 20.7 million barrels per day were transported through the strait. The choke point has undergone continuous unrest since the 1980s. This includes, the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 by an American surface-to-air missile in 1988, the collision between nuclear submarine USS Newport News and crude tanker Mogamigawa in 2007, U.S.–Iranian naval dispute in 2008 and 2011–2012, seizure of MV Maersk Tigris in 2015 and threats of a strait closure in 2018 and 2019 made by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Most recently, in April 2020, statements from Iran’s military show its readiness to defend its territorial integrity.

The Geopolitical Equation

In 2010, Washington launched the Arab Spring. Shortly thereafter, the US began to stroke up tensions between the Arabs and Iran. One of the things that was whispered to both parties was – – – “The Hormuz Strait would be closed, thus it would be better to find new routes to transport oil and gas”.

 The first indication was when the regime change operation broke out in Syria, in 2011. The second was when Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen, in order not to let Iran-backed Houthis control a possible route bypassing the Straits. Look at the map above. See the red lines. These lines represent new pipeline routes to export oil and gas to world markets: To Syria and the Mediterranean; one from Iran and the other from Saudi Arabia; to Yemen, we see two red lines: one from Abu Dhabi and the other from Saudi Arabia – both aimed to end at a port on the Arabian Sea. This would solve the problems of the oil exports. The battle for control over these 2 new potential energy pipeline corridors have resulted in conflicts in both Syria and Yemen.

These wars were as a result of US meddling in the region, with the aim to create a conflict between Iran and the Arab Gulf exporters. The Rockefeller aim was to blow-up the region, with the hope of stopping oil exports, either through the closures of Hormuz, Bab el Mandab or the destruction of energy infrastructure. Were this to go through, the Rockefellers would then activate their “FORTRESS AMERICA” game-plan. See the article,

Then, Iran went one step further. They built a new 1,000 km pipeline -the “Goreh –Jask” pipeline. It went operational in March 2021, and is able to move 1 million barrels per day. The threat to Iran is reduced, but the threat to Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Iraq and Riyadh remains.

Unlike all the other chokepoints, the Hormuz Straits closure would devastate the global economy. Of the roughly 100 million barrels of oil produced daily, roughly half is used internally, and the other half is exported. This means roughly 50 million barrels. Of this 50 million, the Gulf oil producers exports 17 million barrels. Currently the oil price is around $80; with the loss of 17 million barrels, expect the price to shoot up to more than $200. What would that do to the global economies and the social chaos that would follow?

Our next article deals with Iran and its tie-up with Russia and China. This alliance has ignited one of the worst nightmares of the Rockefeller Empire. We will explain why – – –

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