US Vows ‘Further Action’ Against Iran-Backed Attackers In Middle East


The United States “will take further action” against Iran-backed militants in the Middle East, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday, and declined to rule out a direct attack on Iran.

President Joe Biden “will do what he thinks needs to be done,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “If you see more attacks” on U.S. troops stationed in the Mideast or American naval vessels and merchant ships threatened in the Red Sea, “you’ll see more responses,” Sullivan said.

Even so, Sullivan said the U.S. will “try to keep from [an] expanded war” in the Middle East even as U.S. and British forces have joined to hit Iranian-backed militants, again.

On Friday, the U.S. struck more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies in Iraq and Syria in response to the killing of three U.S. service members at a Jordanian outpost where they were stationed.

Then, the U.S. and Britain hit at least 36 Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday while the U.S. on Sunday launched what it described as a self-defense strike against a Houthi anti-ship cruise missile “prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.”

Sullivan said the U.S. is “still assessing the battle damage” from the attack on the Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria.

Asked how the U.S. would define success in the attacks, Sulivan said, “Each attack we undertake helps degrade capabilities” of the Iranian-backed militias in the region. “The U.S. will step up when it’s attacked,” but at the same time make sure the U.S. is “not pulled into a war in the Middle East. We will defend our troops.”

While the U.S. in recent days has said it was not looking to attack Iran directly, Sullivan said, “I’m not going to rule in or out” any attack inside Iran.

In a statement on the X media platform, the U.S. Central Command said U.S. forces had determined that the cruise missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen “presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.” CENTCOM said its action ensures freedom of navigation and makes international waters “safer and more secure for U.S. Navy vessels and merchant vessels.”

In a statement Saturday, the Pentagon said the U.S. and Britain hit 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations in Yemen using U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets from the USSDwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. The USS Gravely and the USS Carney Navy destroyers also fired Tomahawk missiles from the Red Sea, U.S. officials said.

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilizing Houthi actions … including the January 27 attack which struck and set ablaze the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker M/V Marlin Luanda,” the statement said.

The Houthis made it clear Saturday that they are not backing down.

“Military operations against Israel will continue until the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped and the siege on its residents is lifted, no matter the sacrifices it costs us,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, wrote on X. “American-British aggression against Yemen will not go unanswered, and we will meet escalation with escalation.”

The U.S. strikes targeted deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, radars and helicopters, the Defense Department said. The British military said it struck a ground control station west of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, that has been used to control Houthi drones that have been launched against vessels in the Red Sea.

Hours before the latest joint operation, the U.S. Central Command said it took out six anti-ship cruise missiles that were ready to launch.

The Houthis said there were 14 attacks; 11 targeted the Al-Barah area in the Maqbanah District and areas in the Haifan District, a security source told the Houthi-run Yemeni News Agency (Saba). The other three attacks targeted Jabal Al-Jada’ in Al-Lahiya District and the Al-Salif District in Al-Hudaydah Governorate.

The strikes were the second wave of attacks that began Friday with the U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said three facilities were hit in Iraq and four in Syria.

Biden said the strikes demonstrate to “all those who might seek to do us harm” that “if you harm an American, we will respond.”

According to the U.S. Central Command, the retaliatory strikes reportedly killed nearly 40 people and injured about two dozen more. The operation included long-range B-1 bombers flown from the U.S. that used more than 125 precision munitions, according to U.S. military officials.

A U.S. official said Saturday that an initial battle damage assessment showed the U.S. had struck each of its planned targets.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that 23 people were killed in the Syrian strikes, all rank-and-file fighters, while Iraq said in a statement Saturday that attacks there killed 16, including civilians, and there was “significant damage” to homes and private properties.

Iraq, but not Iran, was informed before the strikes, according to U.S. officials.

“This is the start of our response,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after the strikes. “We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the president and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani contended the airstrikes were “violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria and Iraq, and they represent “another adventurous and strategic mistake by the United States that will result only in increased tension and instability in the region.”

Hussein al-Mosawi, spokesperson for Harakat al-Nujaba, one of the main Iran-backed militias in Iraq, in an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, condemned the U.S. strikes. But he struck a more conciliatory tone, saying, “We do not wish to escalate or widen regional tensions.”

Russia has requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday afternoon to discuss the U.S. attacks in the Middle East.

VOA White House bureau chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin also contributed.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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