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Growing Concerns Over Houthi Attacks Prompt White House Meeting on Military Response

As demands for a more robust military response to repeated attacks by Houthi rebels on ships in the Red Sea escalate, President Joe Biden’s national security team gathered at the White House to explore potential options, including strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. The meeting aimed to delve into details of more forceful approaches and assess possibilities of collaboration with other nations.

Principal Deputies Committee Meeting

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The Wednesday afternoon meeting was conducted by Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, focusing on presenting President Biden with a comprehensive list of military options. These options go beyond the strategies previously considered by the White House.

Approval Status

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Currently, none of the military options for strikes on the Yemen-based Houthi rebels, prepared by the U.S. military, have received approval from the White House. This lack of endorsement comes despite the Houthis’ direct attack on U.S. Navy helicopters on New Year’s Eve, which resulted in the sinking of three boats and the death of 10 fighters.

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Biden’s Involvement

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President Biden, though on vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, remained updated on the Red Sea situation. While there have been reports of disagreements between White House and U.S. military officials regarding a response to the Houthis, an administration official denied any such conflicts.

U.S. Actions Against Houthis

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U.S. Navy ships and jets have previously intercepted and destroyed drones and missiles launched by the Houthis. However, defense officials argue that these defensive measures are insufficient in deterring the escalating attacks and call for a more forceful response from President Biden.

Joint Statement Of Condemnation

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On the same day as the White House meeting, the administration collaborated with other countries to issue a joint statement condemning the attacks by Houthi rebels. The statement also served as a warning of possible consequences if the assaults persist.

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International Coalition Building

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Administration officials aim to form a coalition to pressure the Houthis and their primary supporter, Iran, to halt the attacks on commercial shipping. They hope that a multilateral military response could be part of the strategy.

Huge Shipping Volume Impacted

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Approximately 12% of global shipping passes through the Red Sea daily. As a result of the repeated attacks, major shipping companies like Maersk have temporarily halted their operations in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Global Shipping Impact

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This disruption is expected to lead to delays and increased costs in the delivery of goods. Officials weigh concerns about military intervention in Yemen potentially expanding the conflict and negatively impacting the world economy.

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Recent Attacks

Taiz / Yemen – 30 Nov 2016 : Soldiers fighting in the ranks of the legitimate army against Al-Houthi militia in Taiz City . — Photo by akram alrasny

The Houthi rebels have launched numerous attacks against ships in the Red Sea since November 19. Their most recent attack on January 3 involved firing anti-ship ballistic missiles into the southern Red Sea. Fortunately, the missiles did not hit any commercial ships, but CENTCOM highlighted the danger these actions pose to mariners and international commerce.

Previous Aggressive Actions

Credit: Taiz _ Yemen _ 07 Feb 2017 : Soldier fighting in the ranks of the legitimate army against Al-Houthi militia in the West of Taiz City — Photo by akram alrasny

In December, Houthi drones targeted a commercial ship, the Al Jasrah, causing a fire on board. Shortly after, a Houthi missile struck the MV Palatium 3, igniting another fire. On December 3, the Houthis fired a series of drones and missiles at commercial and U.S. Navy ships over nearly eight hours, striking three ships. The USS Carney responded by shooting down incoming drones.

Largest Attacks

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On December 26, the Houthis launched their most extensive attack, involving at least 12 drones and five missiles over a span of 10 hours. The USS Laboon and U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets successfully intercepted and destroyed these threats, preventing any damage to ships.

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Fatal Confrontation

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The incident on Sunday marked a significant escalation, with the Houthis firing on U.S. Navy helicopters responding to a distress call from a threatened commercial ship. In self-defense, the U.S. military responded lethally, resulting in the first fatal confrontation at sea in recent times.

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