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Stopping Houthi ship attacks will take time, Biden adviser says

In a handout image provided by the U.K. Ministry of Defense, an RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off from RAF Akrotiri to join the U.S.-led coalition to conduct air strikes against Yemen's Houthi rebels on Jan. 11, 2024, in Akrotiri, Cyprus. (U.K. Ministry of Defense/Getty Images/TNS)
February 20, 2024

U.S. military action to deter Iranian-backed groups such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels will take time and the Biden administration “will have more to say about it soon,” Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said.

While hinting at unspecified additional measures, Finer’s comments on ABC’s This Week are broadly in line with President Joe Biden’s acknowledgment last week that Houthi missile and drone attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea are unlikely to stop immediately.

“Deterrence is not a light switch,” Finer said Sunday. “We are taking down, we are taking out these stockpiles so they will not be able to conduct so many attacks over time. That will take time to play out.”

Iran-backed militias are carrying out other attacks in the region, including one in a western Iraq on Saturday in which at least two U.S. service members were injured.

“You can be assured that we taking this extremely seriously and will have more to say about it soon,” Finer said.

Tensions around the Middle East have steadily increased since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people and Israel’s counterstrikes, which have killed more than 25,000 people in the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

U.S. air strikes destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile on Saturday that was prepared for launch into the Gulf of Aden, the latest action against the Yemen-based militants that have targeted Red Sea commercial traffic for weeks.

The U.S. and the U.K. are exploring ways to step up their campaign against the Houthis without provoking a broader war, with a focus on preemptive strikes and targeting resupply shipments from Iran, according to people familiar with the discussions.

“We totally reject the justification and the rationale that because there’s a conflict going on between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that entitles a group to take actions military actions against the entire global economy,” Finer said.


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