The Gulf Of Aden-Red Sea (GARS) Region Is Among The World's Most Strategic


Mon, 26-07-2021 12:42 AM, Aden Time

Andrew Korybko | South24

The past decade has seen the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea (GARS) region's strategic importance skyrocket among the world's most influential players. Foreign parties' attention was turned towards the GARS at the end of the century's first decade in response to the explosion of piracy taking place off of the Somali coast. This resulted in the commencement of various naval missions to thwart that threat and ensure freedom of navigation through those seas. The past half-decade, however, has been marked by an intensified competition between some of these same players in order to entrench their influential in this geostrategic space. 

The GARS' significance is that it's the shortest year-round maritime transit route between Western and Eastern Eurasia. The Northern Sea Route (NSR) through the Arctic is gradually becoming operational but isn't reliable during the winter months. Additionally, the GARS countries sit in the center of the tri-continental pivot space between Afro-Eurasia. This highly prized position can be utilized for economic and military purposes. The GARS countries can function as transshipment points for facilitating East-West trade as well as conveniently host related production facilities. They're also prime outposts for monitoring regional non-state threats. 

The Yemeni Civil War that began in 2014 and prompted the Saudi-led military intervention in March 2015 is the most destabilizing GARS crisis ever. The UN officially also regards it as the world's worst humanitarian crisis right now. Its impact has been much more destabilizing than the Ethiopian and Somali Civil Wars because of what's strategically at stake. Yemen's UN-recognized Hadi Administration, its Saudi-led international allies, and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) accuse their Iran of exploiting the Ansarullah/Houthis as proxies in pursuit of controlling the GARS while those two actors lay the same accusation against them regarding their motives. 

«The Yemeni Civil War that began in 2014 is the most destabilizing GARS crisis ever»

Whichever way one flips it, the Yemeni Civil War eventually took on the optics of a larger struggle for control of the GARS. As it presently stands, the conflict is at a stalemate and neither side has established full control over this strategic space. It's worthwhile mentioning that the UAE unexpectedly became a major regional actor throughout the course of the war after it temporarily set up military bases in Eritrea and the breakaway region of Somaliland. Abu Dhabi is now regarded as the most important player in South Yemen, which includes the strategic islands of Mayun in the Bab-el-Mandeb and Socotra in the Gulf of Aden. 

On the other side of the GARS, Russia is in talks to set up a naval base in Sudan while Turkey already has a land base in Somalia. In between them lies Djibouti, which already hosts five foreign bases, including American and Chinese ones. That tiny country is considered to be the lifeline for landlocked Ethiopia, which is the continent's second most populous country and is presently in the midst of a serious internal conflict over the rogue Tigray Region. Ethiopia's troubles have attracted widespread international concern because of their potential humanitarian consequences. Addis Ababa also accuses the Arab League, Egypt, and the West of meddling.