The Spanish Armed Forces they are not going to join the international coalition that was formed to protect merchant ships crossing the Red Sea from the attacks of the Shia Houthi rebels of Yemen, however, Madrid will not oppose the participation of other European states, in the context of a specific mission.

After several days of hesitation and obvious embarrassment, the Spanish coalition government (center-left/left) clarified, with a statement from the Ministry of Defense that was made public last Saturday night, that it opposes the expansion of the European operation “Atalanti”, which since 2008 has been fighting against of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

The ministry reminded that “Atalanti” has been limited to the extent that now only one country (Spain) participates, with just one ship (the Victoria frigate), warning that the resurgence of piracy in the area “demands” to be the “maximum investment’ in this mission.

“The nature and objectives of the mission (…) have nothing to do with what it aspires to achieve in the Red Sea,” he insisted.

The government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez therefore considers it “necessary” to create a “new and specific” mission dedicated to the protection of maritime traffic in the Red Sea.

This ad hoc mission should have a “field of action”, the appropriate “means” and “objectives”, which will be “decided by the competent EU institutions”, the ministry ruled, assuring that “Spain would not resist with anyone way in its creation”.

Asked about this by Agence France-Presse yesterday Sunday, its representative noted however that Spain “would not participate” in such an operation by the European Union, even if it were decided. The ministry did not explain the reasons for Madrid’s refusal, which was announced the day after US President Joe Biden’s telephone conversation with Mr. Sanchez.

The White House said in a press release released that the conversation expressed condemnation by Washington and Madrid “of the ongoing Houthi attacks against merchant ships in the Red Sea,” an issue the Spanish government did not even address in its own statement on the conversation. .

“utmost prudence”

“We appreciate to the highest degree Spain’s refusal to be swayed by American and British lies on the issue of navigation,” Hussein al-Ezi, the Houthi’s deputy foreign minister, said via X.

According to reports in Spain’s Sunday press, Madrid’s refusal to join the US-led coalition is due to domestic political expediencies.

Mr. Sanchez co-rules with an alliance of the radical left, the Sumar faction, which is generally hostile to American foreign policy.

In an interview with a Spanish radio station, its head, Yolanda Díaz, who is also the deputy prime minister, said she found it highly “hypocritical” for Western countries to protect international shipping, contrasting it with their inability to protect the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

The establishment of the military coalition in the Red Sea, dubbed “Prosperity Guardian”, was announced by the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, last Monday in Washington.

Mr. Austin initially indicated that ten countries, including Spain, would participate in this coalition. According to the news website El Confidencial and the newspaper El País, this announcement caused a lot of resentment in the Spanish government because it had not been consulted beforehand.

The representative of the Spanish government, Pilar Alegría, pointed out that Spain will “never” participate in an operation that is decided “unilaterally” and will show “the utmost prudence”.

The formation of this coalition is an additional cause of tension in the relations between Madrid and Washington, recently rocked by an espionage case: Spain expelled — discreetly — two American spies who had infiltrated the Spanish secret services and recruited agents of the National Intelligence Center (CNI). .

In its announcement, the Ministry of Defense assures, however, that “Spain is and will always remain a serious and reliable partner” in the military missions of the EU, NATO and the UN, as evidenced by “the 3,000 men and women of the Spanish Armed Forces” who currently serving in peacekeeping missions.