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‘Shadow war’: The Biden admin isn’t doing enough to thwart Iran-backed Houthi attacks, GOP Senator says

by

Daily Caller News Foundation

  • The Houthi militant group is conducting a “shadow war” against U.S. forces, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • The Biden administration has not retaliated against Houthi aggression in the Red Sea and has refused to say whether U.S. warships were directly targeted.
  • “It is time to deliver a punishing, forceful response to Iran’s proxies throughout the region and re-list the Houthis as what we know them to be: a terrorist organization that will stop at nothing to shed American blood,” Wicker said.

The Biden administration isn’t doing enough to defend U.S. troops from increasingly brazen attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen as U.S. Navy warships have rushed to defend commercial vessels from the rebel group, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A U.S. Navy destroyer on Sunday shot down at least three drones the Houthi rebels in Yemen fired in the warship’s direction while responding to distress calls from commercial vessels also attacked by the Iran-backed organization. The U.S. has not struck back and has avoided saying the Houthis deliberately targeted American service members, but Wicker said in a statement that the Houthis are conducting a “shadow war” against U.S. forces and called for the Biden administration to retaliate.

“This can no longer stand. It is time to deliver a punishing, forceful response to Iran’s proxies throughout the region and re-list the Houthis as what we know them to be: a terrorist organization that will stop at nothing to shed American blood,” Wicker, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the DCNF in an exclusive statement.

Four officials told Politico the Houthis are definitely endangering U.S. service members, highlighting growing frustration within the Pentagon at the administration’s downplaying of the attacks.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said there’s not enough information to decide whether Sunday’s bombardment and other recent incidents represent deliberate Houthi efforts to threaten U.S. service members in the Red Sea.

“The attacks that we witnessed within the Red Sea, the Carney, as for our initial assessment, was not the intended target. Now, we are seeing that some of the commercial vessels were. The Carney took action as a drone was headed in its direction, but again, we can’t assess that the Carney, at this time, was the intended target,” Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said on Monday.

The Pentagon maintains that escalation in hostile actions against commercial shipping in the Red Sea and attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria perpetrated by a coalition of regional Iranian proxy groups are distinct from one another and from the Israel-Hamas war.

U.S. efforts at deterrence, including the sustained presence of an aircraft carrier strike group near the Arabian Gulf, 300 additional troops and air defense assets stationed across the Middle East, are meant to deter further attacks and manage escalation.

“It’s still important to understand and to focus on what’s happening in Israel and within Gaza has not spread out into a wider regional conflict, and that — that is managing escalation. That’s what we do not want to see have happened in the region,” Singh said.

The Houthis said attacks on commercial ships are conducted in solidarity with the supposed Palestinian cause, The Washington Post reported.

In November, another destroyer, the USS Thomas Hudner, on patrol in the Red Sea downed multiple drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, CENTCOM said.

In another incident, the Houthis appeared to attack the USS Mason and a shipping vessel it was rescuing from pirates. But, the Pentagon revised its assessment after the fact to say that the American ship was not a target.

Singh on Monday declined to say whether the Pentagon had plans to retaliate.

“The United States needs to start targeting those that are targeting our naval assets. Understanding we do not want to expand the war, but we have an obligation to allow our forces to defend themselves. We should respond militarily to any further direct attacks,” Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and retired CIA paramilitary officer, told the DCNF.

“Anything short of that from our commander-in-chief will continue to embolden our adversaries,” Wicker told the DCNF.

Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called attacks on international shipping in the Arabian Gulf a “big deal” at an event in Washington on Monday, Politico reported.

“This is very much an expansion of perhaps the larger conflict between Israel and Hamas,” he said, contradicting repeated lines from Pentagon spokespeople that the Iran-backed attacks are “separate and distinct” from the ongoing conflict.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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