The UK’s clandestine negotiations in the Red Sea - ZEKERIYA KURŞUN

The UK’s clandestine negotiations in the Red Sea

As everybody's attention turned towards the security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, secret negotiations were launched in the Red Sea. Failure of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition to achieve any results in the Yemen War led to cracks in the coalition. However, someone stepped in and made a new plan to maintain an illusion of unity.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reducing its military forces in the Red Sea and preparing to entirely withdraw was almost going to change the course of the war. However, who was going to fill the void left by the UAE?

It appears the U.K. stepped in and turned this situation into a new plan. Under current conditions, it became clear the "claim to return legitimacy" to all of Yemen is not possible. New politics that would allow coalition forces to leave all their burdens to a new structure to be formed in Aden. The U.K. that supported the Yemen War without being much in sight, started new negotiations behind the curtains. This not only recalled regional competitions, it also triggered the U.K.-U.S. hegemonic duels over the region after World War II. Hence, during the secretly ongoing negotiations, suddenly sending troops from South Korea to Aden came up on the agenda. South Korea keeping its longtime symbolic troops in Aden as the U.S.'s gendarme, and suddenly announcing that it will be sending another 300 soldiers is not coincidental. It is a sign that the U.S., which is busy with Iran, wants a piece of the pie.

In brief, the U.S., which has been providing logistical, intelligence and arms support to the Yemen War, is going to take an active role in this new project launched by the U.K., together with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. According to this project, the idea to reestablish political stability in all of Yemen through its capital Sana by defeating the Houthi rebels has been abandoned. The plan is to safeguard international interests through a structure that is likely to be newly established in Aden, which is convenient to control the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which has high geopolitical importance.

The coalition that failed to achieve any result after four years is going to leave Yemen alone with its destruction, and form an international security umbrella in the Red Sea against Iran. The coalition will also wash its hands clean of war crimes that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

So, can this plan work?

Yes, as long as the British are involved, it appears it can work. Because the British have an instatiable love for Aden. As a matter of fact, Aden is the historical symbol of entering the Middle East. Hence, it is impossible for them to remain indifferent to all kinds of developments happening here. It is easily possible to speculate that the U.S. is behind Saudi Arabia that is continuing the Yemen War, and the U.K. is behind the UAE. Naturally, it could also be claimed that the UAE's recent Red Sea policies are inspired by the British.

Taking into consideration that the sole alternative way out for Persian Gulf oil is the Red Sea due to the the risk of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, it would be possible to understand the extent of the region's importance for developed countries. However, it is true that the Red Sea, in other words, Aden has greater significance for the U.K.

Aden, located in a strategic position opening out to the Indian Ocean, was conquered in 1538, during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, at the hands of Hadım Süleyman Pasha. It was turned into a military base against the Portuguese that settled in the Indian Ocean and threatened the Islamic world through the Red Sea. Thus, the security of the Arabian Peninsula was also long provided through here.

The U.K., which settled in India in the 19th century, is showing interest in Aden and seeking excuses for intervention - just like the Portuguese. These excuses have quite a long story that is reflected in diplomatic correspondences. (You can find these correspondences in the book titled "Avrupa Emperyalizmi ve Arap Dünyası" (European Imperialism and the Arab World), which we co-published with Ali Akyıldız.)

The British first made an innocent trade deal with the Sultan of Lahej, who had influence over Aden. Then, they sent some gifts to the Sheikh of Sinai, with whom the Sultan of Lahej had traditional disputes, and gained his favor too. After gaining psychological superiority in the region, the British started to wait for a suitable opportunity. A ship carrying the British flag, which had an accident near Aden in 1837, was going to present them with the opportunity they had been waiting for. Claiming that the sunken ship crew and its passengers were attacked by locals, the U.K. attempted to intervene on Aden. They pressure the Sultan of Lahej for this purpose. As compensation, he agrees to sell the city of Aden and port to the U.K. through a secret deal. However, the Sultan of Lahej's son objected to the agreement. The Ottoman Empire was aware of the situation, but it is focused on the governor of Egypt, which is in rebellion. Taking advantage of this, the British helped the Ottomans with respect to the Egypt issue, while invading Aden.

We are recalling this history because there are constantly psycho-history attacks happening in the region. Hence, while Turkey is currently continuing negotiations with the U.S., the U.K. is working in Aden behind the scenes. This is both good and bad. The good aspect is that the Iran-U.S. and regional disputes will be postponed for now through negotiations without turning into close combat. The bad aspect is that despite all these incidents and the violations of human rights, nothing has changed in the region.


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