On Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the need to further incapacitate Iran-backed militias that have targeted U.S. forces and vessels in the Middle East. The U.S. is gearing up for substantial action following the deaths of three U.S. service members in Jordan. Despite hints of imminent strikes, some militant groups, driven by the threat of retaliation, have claimed a cessation of hostilities. However, as of Thursday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels continued their attacks, firing a ballistic missile at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea.
Secretary Austin, in his first press conference since hospitalization on January 1 due to complications from prostate cancer treatment, asserted the necessity to diminish even more capability than in previous actions. Prior U.S. strikes have not deterred the attacks, with Iranian-backed militant groups striking U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria over 166 times since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October.
The U.S. attributes the attack on Tower 22 in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias, including Kataib Hezbollah. While Iran denies involvement, Austin emphasized that Iran sponsors these groups, regardless of its knowledge of specific incidents.
Houthis attacks continued
In the Red Sea, Houthi rebels have targeted commercial and military ships almost 40 times since November. The latest attack involved firing a ballistic missile at the M/V Koi, a Liberian-flagged container ship. Simultaneously, Central Command reported the destruction of two Houthi-fired drones, underscoring the ongoing threat in the region.
Austin acknowledged the adversaries’ persistent capabilities, emphasizing the need for ongoing efforts to protect U.S. troops. The Houthis claim their attacks are in response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas, but their targeting of vessels with unclear links to Israel poses a threat to global trade routes.
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The U.S. military, with assets including the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower and multiple warships, continues to conduct strikes and defend ships in the region. Recent actions include the destruction of Houthi drones and interception of a ballistic missile, demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to addressing the evolving security situation.