South24 Center

Bab Al-Mandab Strait: The Features of International and Regional Competition From South Yemen’s Perspective


Sat, 17-12-2022 04:26 PM, Aden

Aden (South24 Center)

A research paper concluded that the international and regional presence in the Bab Al-Mandab region hides its real intentions which differ from the disclosed ones. It added that hegemony is the real purpose of these conflicting countries and that regional forces' struggle in the region is an ideological, political, and intra-influential one. It warned of the Houthi role in implementing the agenda of regional powers such as Iran.

In light of this conflict which is based upon the most important strategic region for South Yemen, the study, issued by "South24 Center for News and Studies",  said:  "Southerners are aware of all details related to the international and regional competition over the strait and their right to secure it against any threats as well as the possible use of this conflict in serving their Southern national issue'.

Moreover, the study urged South Yemen's foreign policy makers, in particular, to give the Bab Al-Mandab card more space in the Southern external political discourse.

According to the study, authored by researcher Mubarak Bin Hajeb, "The Bab Al-Mandab is one the most important maritime straits in the world due to its important geopolitical location in the Middle East. It is very rich not only in the energy resources which are considered the lifeline for Europe, the US and the world, but it is also full of geopolitical, religious and ethnic conflicts. This is in addition to the consequences of the greed and influence of major global and regional forces which look for a foothold and to ensure doctrinal or political or economic influence in this region".

The study stressed that "The competition has intensified among the superpowers in the world and the region to gain a foothold in the strategic strait and its surroundings".

This study provides a comprehensive reading about the reality of the international and regional competition on the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the reasons behind it from the views of experts in the   Arab world and South Yemen. The study independently aims to provide a detailed reading of the official and unofficial stances from the international and regional conflict over the Bab Al-Mandab Strait. This takes into consideration the Southerners' historical geopolitical eligibility to control the strait and the Gulf of Aden".

In order to understand this competition over the Bab Al-Mandab and draw a comprehensive picture about the state of  polarization in the strait between the world’s  major powers and some regional countries, the researcher resorted to the critical discourse analysis methodology to analyze the local, Arab and foreign media discourse towards this, whether in the form of press articles or analytical studies or news and tv reports in addition to some interviews with journalists, writers, researchers, strategic experts and governmental officials. 

The importance of this paper is that it employs the Arab and non-Arab media discourse to provide an important reading about the state of conflict along with   the international and regional undisclosed polarization which hides behind economic or service or humanitarian pretexts. This is related to the growing concerns that such a conflict could lead to another world war.

It also highlights the emergent force in South Yemen under the umbrella of the STC which is a strong ally to important regional countries that constitute a source of their efforts to confront the Iranian expansion in the region, especially in the Arabian Peninsula.

Moreover, this paper demonstrates the extent of hard efforts exerted by Southerners who seek for a pivotal and active role regarding important waterways such as the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Additionally, they seek to understand the current international state of conflict in this geostrategic region and introduce themselves as being influential allies who are able to secure and protect it.


The 30-page study led to several conclusions, the most important of which are illustrated as below:

The big international and regional presence in the Bab Al-Mandab and the Horn of Africa conceals its real intentions as it hides behind some pretexts. These countries justify their presence by carrying the slogans of fighting piracy, smuggling and terrorism as well as the logistic supplies. However, they actually hide their real purposes behind their presence. This includes the desire to dominate and expand influence for political goals in the first place. Moreover, the superpowers and even the regional forces assert their influence in these strategic areas by signing security and economic agreements with poor states which overlook the strait and the Horn of Africa. 

The political, economic, security and ideological conflict among the regional forces in the Middle East is close to the Bab Al-Mandab Strait. All competing forces are looking for a foothold and a role to play in the strait to pressure the international and regional society in order to accept their policies like what Iran has done. We have to   take into consideration the reality of the strong link between the three important straits in the Middle East including the Suez Canal, Bab Al-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz. Thus, controlling more than one waterway by a regional country is a serious domination in the Middle East. This is what Iran has sought after seizing control over the Strait of Hormuz. It supports its Houthi allies to open a loophole for it in the Bab al-Mandab Strait. It aims to enhance its control over the region and impose its conditions in any negotiations with the international community regarding Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

On the other hand, the Southerners are largely aware of the scale of the international and regional presence in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the pretexts which conceal the aspirations of superpowers and regional powers to control and dominate the region. The Southerners are also aware of the great importance of the geopolitical location which is close to the most important energy sources in the world. It controls important waterways that serve as a lifeline of   the global economy such as the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Bab Al-Mandab Strait. 

The Southerners succeeded in penetrating the regional-regional conflict in the Middle East through allying with the Saudi and Emirati -led Arab Coalition countries and through forging good relationships with Egypt. These states constitute a regional axis which competes with Iranian, Turkish and Israeli ambitions. The southerners also succeeded in gaining the trust of the international community through the fruitful efforts made by their local forces in combating terrorism in Yemen with international blessing.

The Southerners appreciate the Arab Coalition’s role in maintaining security in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the national coasts. Furthermore, they aspire for more military support from the Coalition to implement the task of securing the national waterways and coasts against any dangers that surround them. These include piracy, African immigration, and Iranian support for the Houthis along the sea. This can be achieved by establishing a Southern coast guard force, at least, and developing its relevant capabilities.

The Southerners address the regional and international competition over the Bab Al-Mandab Strait with a high degree of rationality, balance and objectivity regarding the calls to benefit from it. The South Yemen’s discourse which analyzed by this research- confirmed the need to exploit this international and regional competition to make gains. This would serve South Yemen’s desire to solve their issue and to achieve their demand of restoring their former state. 

This study recommends South Yemen’s foreign policy makers to give the   Bab Al-Mandab Strait more space in the foreign Southern political discourse. They should stress that Southerners are able to secure the waterways affiliated with them in the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden with regional partners. It also recommended to exploit the international desire to impose stability in South Yemen to create partnership opportunities with the international community in various security and economic fields.

Mubarak Amer Bin Hajeb is non-resident researcher at "South 24 Center for News and Studies". An Expert in Analyzing Media Discourse. 

- To download the full version: (here)

Bab Al-MandabSouth YemenRed SeaYemen