US CENTCOM Vice Admiral refutes threats from ISIL to commercial shipping routesMarch 3, 2015 in Egypt, Piracy, Terrorism, Yemen
US Central Command Vice admiral John Miller said last week that ISIL does not pose a significant threat to commercial shipping routes, such as the Strait of Hormuz, in the Middle East.
Miller made the comments at a conference in Abu Dhabi, after an article by the Daily Mail suggested that ISIL militants are working with sea-faring human traffickers in the Mediterranean to engage in piracy similar to that which occurs off the coast of Somalia.
The Daily Mail quotes an Italian defence magazine, Rivista Italiana Difesa, which said, that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) could “repeat the scenario that has dominated the maritime region between Somalia and [the Gulf of] Aden for the last ten years’. The article also warns that ISILcould send boats “crammed with migrants” for use in “kamikaze” missions in the Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean, particularly off the coasts of Europe.
Miller emphasised that the international maritime presence in the region had minimised threats from ISIL. However, he acknowledged that the group still has the capability to conduct surprise operations. He states, “As dynamic as the region is today, what we have seen over the past years is the maritime atmosphere has been safe, the free flow of commerce has been stable and secure.”
Currently the greatest cause for concern, according to Miller, is the unrest in Yemen. The combination of political instability and the presence of the very active terrorist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have created a “very dynamic situation.” Miller states that the instability in the country could “lead to instability in the strait of Bab el Mandab in the Gulf of Aden in the southern part of the Red Sea, all of which is cause for concern”.
Yet, Miller adds in regard to potential surprise from Islamic State, “An organisation like ISIL is capable of surprising us … so we want to work hard to eliminate that opportunity for surprise and we do that through a robust presence in the maritime environment.”
The combined international maritime security forces have as many as 70 vessels on the water per day. The Suez Canal Company has also increased security measures, despite the unrest in Sinai that has on occasion targeted ships in the canal.
The Strait of Hormuz, linking the Arabian Gulf to the Indian Ocean is a key shipping route, accounting for around 20% of total oil shipments by sea alone in 2013, according to the US Energy Information Administration.