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Biden says he’s sent a message to Iran with Yemen strikes

13 January 2024 18:40 (UTC+04:00)
Biden says he’s sent a message to Iran with Yemen strikes

President Joe Biden said Friday he’s delivered a message to Iran with Thursday’s airstrikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen, which he now is calling a terrorist group despite his administration’s 2021 decision to revoke that label, Azernews reports, citing CNN.

“I’ve already delivered the message to Iran,” Biden said when asked his message during a tour of a coffee shop in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “They know not to do anything.”

“We will make sure we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior along with our allies,” he said.

The US and UK militaries launched strikes against Houthi targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Thursday, marking a significant response after the Biden administration and its allies warned that the Iran-backed militant group would bear the consequences of its attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

US and coalition forces struck at least 60 targets with more than 150 precision-guided munitions at 28 Iranian-backed Houthi militant locations, military officials said. The Houthi assets included command and control nodes, munitions, depots, launching systems, production facilities, and air defense radar systems.

The strikes, which have been condemned by several leaders across the Middle East, killed five and wounded six others, according to the rebels’ military spokesperson, Yahya Sare’e, who said they would not deter further Houthi attacks on shipping.

The Houthis fired at least one anti-ship ballistic missile towards a commercial vessel Friday, Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims II said. Hours later the US carried out further strikes against Houthi locations in Yemen, according to a US official.

These strikes, carried out unilaterally by the US, were much smaller in scope and targeted a radar facility used by the Houthis, the official said. It was not immediately clear whether the additional US strikes were in response to the anti-ship ballistic missile launch or marked a continuation of the previous attacks, after the US was able to conduct a battle damage assessment and see what targets remained.

The Houthis — an Iran-backed Shia political and military organization that has been fighting a civil war in Yemen against a coalition backed by Saudi Arabia — have been launching drones and missiles at commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea for weeks, many of which have been intercepted and shot down by US Navy ships in the area.

When Biden was asked if the US is in a proxy war with Iran, he said “No. Iran does not want a war with us.”

The president also said he believes the Houthis are a “terrorist group,” a designation his administration lifted on the organization but is considering reapplying.

“I think they are,” Biden said when asked if he was willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group.

In 2021, the Biden administration reversed the Trump administration’s 11th-hour decision to designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization.

Earlier Friday, the White House reiterated it was reviewing a terror designation for the Houthis.

John Kirby, the national security council spokesman, said no decisions had been made and couldn’t provide a timeline for how long the review would take.

Biden said later it is “irrelevant” whether his administration formally designates the Houthis as a terrorist organization because the US and other nations would respond anyway to their attacks in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have said their bombardments are showing solidarity with the Palestinian people, after Israel launched an unrelenting military campaign on Gaza following Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks.

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