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Emasoh declared operational. Le Courbet in the area. The Zs Ms De Ruyter arrives

(B2) The European maritime security initiative in the Arab-Persian Gulf is now operational, announced the French defense. The rules of engagement will be quite precise and will not allow all interventions

The Dutch frigate Zs Ms De Ruyter (credit: MOD Netherlands)

This announcement made Thursday evening, just the day before, of Brexit is very political. On the one hand, it shows that France now has a major role in European defence. It also demonstrates that the Europeans can, in a certain way, do without the British. This is not negligible at a time when London is asserting Urbi et orbi that we can never do without them in this field. Incidentally, it proves that the European Intervention Initiative (EII) wanted by Emmanuel Macron works since France has succeeded in dragging in its wake the Netherlands and Denmark, two countries rather NATO than European in terms of defense. .

One operational frigate, the other arrives

The French frigate Courbet is the first frigate to participate in the operation. It has the advantage of already being in the area, taking part in the operations of the CTF 150 coalition, particularly in the fight against terrorism or drugs. This triggers the IOC (Initial Operational Capability). She will soon be joined by the Dutch frigate HNLMS De Ruyter (F-804) should be on site in mid-February, despite its engine problems (see box). The Danish frigate will take over from September 2020.

Tactical Staff and Medical Center

The tactical staff (FHQ), " composed of Belgian, Danish, Dutch and French officers will be installed at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi ". On the medical side, according to our information, it is the 'Zayed Military Hospital' in Abu Dhabi, which will ensure the function of Role 1 (medical center of evacuation), with a French chief doctor who will ensure the liaison.

Belgian official agreement and Dutch frigate on the way

The Belgian government officially gave its approval on Friday (January 31). Two soldiers will be present on board the Dutch frigate Zr. Mrs. De Ruyter, from the end of January. Maximum duration: 5 months, with a mid-term rotation. The Dutch Frigate De Ruyter left the Netherlands on January 28.

A mission that has all its relevance

In the current context of great tension, this mission finds all its relevance we underline in Paris, as in The Hague. European ships will have three objectives: “preserve the interests of European countries in the area, strengthen maritime security, and thus contribute to regional de-escalation ". The stakes are high: it is through this strait, which separates Oman and Iran by 40 km, that " transits a third of the oil transported to Europe by sea recalls the French Ministry of Defense. A strait so narrow that the territorial waters collide there.

A possible engagement in the event of an attack... by a non-state actor

On the side of the rules of engagement (ROE) it is therefore quite subtle. If I understood correctly what an experienced sailor explained to B2, we must " distinguish the action in territorial waters and international waters ". In territorial waters - which is the case in the Strait of Hormuz shared between the waters of Iran and Oman - ships have a " right of innocent passage [which] applies and, if necessary, a right of self-defence but not intervention per se. In international waters, frigates will be able to come to the rescue of merchant ships if they are boarded by non-state actors or if violence is used against them ».

No intervention when a state actor comes into play

On the other hand, if a merchant ship is attacked by a state actor, things get a little more complicated... First of all, you have to be close. And then, if a merchant vessel is boarded by a state authority (e.g. the Iranian Navy or the Revolutionary Guards Naval Force), “ this is not considered an attack ". And a frigate cannot intervene, normally. We go from 'normal' intervention to an act of war in itself. And that's not the goal of EMASOH. We change register...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Engine problem about to be fixed

The Zs Ms frigateDe Ruyter had some engine problem. This point was officially confirmed to us by a Dutch officer. A " wear was found in one of the gearboxes during a regular inspection. An emergency measure was taken with " a temporary repair ". In the meantime, the order has been given to reduce somewhat (a few knots) the navigation speed of the frigate. That " does not lead to any operational restrictions and does not affect the duration of the outward and return journeys we are assured in The Hague. " The ship can have the maximum sailing speed for the operational conditions. The gearbox replacement is expected to take between 20 to 24 weeks and take place after the mission.

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).