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A Red Sea Alliance - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A group of young hoodlums have been carrying out acts of thuggery on the high seas. They attack yachts and small cargo ships, and their whims and demands are fully complied with. They kidnap ship crews and hold them to ransom, thereby pocketing huge financial revenues. Their appetite increases with the rise in the number of victims as well as with the continuous compliance with their demands and the growing size of raided ships. The kidnapping group is now holding to ransom a ship carrying Ukrainian tanks and another carrying a cargo of wheat, as well as the biggest oil tanker in the world, and they are asking for an astronomical ransom of $25 million. What is happening now is a natural result of the fact that the State of Somalia has been left to collapse in an orgy of self-destruction. Meanwhile, the Arabs are carelessly watching what is going on, and the Arab League itself is failing to give Somalia enough time and to follow up events there seriously enough. On the contrary, they have been attaching interest to the sterile, endless case of Lebanon where the same problems are recurring all over again, without any glimmer of hope on the horizon for a solution. This exhausts those who are following the situation there and diverts attention from other no less important and no less sensitive issues. What is really astonishing is that these aggressions against ships are being perpetrated in a very rudimentary manner, with the use of fishing boats equipped with small engines.

It is also bizarre that statements are being heard here and there, trying to “explain” the secret of the superiority and ability of the Somali pirates to carry out their activities, by claiming that they are former Somali Navy sailors. As if the Somali Navy were a Russian fleet or the [US] Fifth Fleet roaming the oceans of the world. In fact, everybody knows that the number of ships (not warships) of the Somali fleet does not exceed the number of fingers of one hand. The Somali coast is the second longest in Africa, after that of South Africa, and therefore more pirates are likely to come to the fore as long as acts of piracy continue to lead to such enticing results. However, some victim countries have decided to take matters into their own hands, without waiting for an international decision or consensus. India, for example, is deploying warships in the Red Sea and it has already repelled and deterred an attempt at piracy. Likewise, South Korea is also preparing to send out troops and ships to the area to protect its maritime and trade activities.

Piracy on the high seas is not something new; it has been happening for hundreds of years, and recently, very serious cases of piracy occurred in south-east Asia, but the Philippine, Japanese and Chinese navies have managed to limit these crimes through direct and decisive deterrent action. At this moment, the countries concerned with this matter, and especially those overlooking the Red Sea and its outlets, should set up a joint naval force that would be working with international security companies to guard sailing ships and to stop any act of piracy against them. It is not right that a group of pirates should be able to form “an alliance” in the south of the Red Sea that is more efficient than the Warsaw Pact and than the NATO Alliance, and which is able to instill fear in the world while French and American bases are located nearby and without any decisive and serious reaction carried out. Losses are likely to increase if maritime lines are moved from the Red Sea to the Cape of Good Hope in order to escape piracy danger. In such a scenario, the bill would become too much to bear and ransom money would have to be paid to the detriment of the economies of all the victim countries.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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