The Hamilton Spectator

U.S. plans retaliator­y strikes on Iran-backed militias

Action imminent as Houthi rebels continue attacks in Red Sea


U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday it’s time to further disable Iran-backed militias that have struck at American forces and ships in the Middle East and the country is preparing to take significan­t action in response to the deaths of three U.S. service members in Jordan.

For days the U.S. has hinted strikes are imminent. While the threat of retaliatio­n for Sunday’s deaths has driven some militant groups to say they were stopping hostilitie­s, as late as Thursday Yemen’s Houthi rebels were still attacking vessels and fired a ballistic missile at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea.

“At this point, it’s time to take away even more capability than we’ve taken in the past,” Austin said Thursday in his first news conference since he was hospitaliz­ed on Jan. 1 due to complicati­ons from prostate cancer treatment.

Previous U.S. strikes have not deterred the attacks. Since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October, Iranian-backed militant groups have struck U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria at least 166 times with rockets, missiles and one-way attack drones, drawing about a halfdozen U.S. counterstr­ikes on militant facilities in both countries. The U.S. military also has carried out airstrikes targeting the Iranbacked Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The U.S. has attributed the attack on Tower 22 in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that includes the Kataib Hezbollah.

While Iran has denied involvemen­t, Austin said Thursday that “how much Iran knew or didn’t know, we don’t know. But it really doesn’t matter because Iran sponsors these groups.”

Austin said “without that facilitati­on, these kinds of things don’t happen.” He said the Pentagon is still looking at the forensics of the drone that struck Tower 22, a secretive base in northeaste­rn Jordan that’s been crucial to the American presence in neighbouri­ng Syria.

“I don’t think the adversarie­s are of a ‘one and done’ mindset. And so they have a lot of capability. I have a lot more,” Austin said. “We’re going to do what’s necessary to protect our troops.”

In the Red Sea, the Houthis have fired on commercial and military ships almost 40 times since November.

In the latest attack, they fired a ballistic missile at the M/V Koi, a Liberian-flagged container ship on Thursday, U.S. Central Command said.The Houthis did not claim responsibi­lity for the assault.

The attack happened west of Hodeida, a port city in Yemen long held by the rebels, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military group overseeing Mideast waterways.

Also on Thursday, Central Command said it had destroyed two more Houthi-fired drones. One overhead drone, fired at 5 a.m. in Yemen, was shot down in the Gulf of Aden.

A few hours later, an uncrewed surface vehicle, a drone that travels through water, was “determined to be an imminent threat” and was struck in self-defence in the Red Sea, Central Command said.

 ?? ALEX WONG GETTY IMAGES ?? U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday the country will do “what’s necessary to protect our troops.”
ALEX WONG GETTY IMAGES U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday the country will do “what’s necessary to protect our troops.”

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