President Biden held up the planned retaliatory strikes against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels because of ‘bad weather’ with a military source saying that commanders prefer to strike in clear conditions in order to avoid civilian casualties.
The president has signed off on the strikes, meaning it’s a question of when, not if the US will hit back in the wake of the deaths of three servicemen last week in Jordan at the hands of a Houthi drone.
A military source told CBS News that CENTCOM forces in the Middle East would rather wait until conditions in the region clear up before launching the counteroffensive.
Weather forecast over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, which is under the control of the Houthis, indicates sun and clear skies all through the weekend of February 2.
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.
President Biden held up the planned retaliatory strikes against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels because of ‘bad weather’
Yemen’s Houthi fighters man a machine gun mounted on a vehicle while participating in a parade in solidarity with Palestinians and denounce the U.S.-led aerial attacks on Yemen
‘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 press 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 half-dozen U.S. counterstrikes on militant facilities in both countries.
The U.S. military also has carried out airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed 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 militant group 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 neighboring 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 ship’s management could not immediately be reached for comment. The Houthis did not claim responsibility for the assault.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference at Pentagon for the first time since his recent hospitalization due to a prostate cancer diagnosis
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
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 defense in the Red Sea, Central Command said.
The Houthis say they are targeting ships over Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas.
But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe.
The Houthis hit a commercial vessel with a missile on Jan. 26, sparking a fire that burned for hours.
The Pentagon has the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the region, along with at least a half dozen other major U.S. warships, U.S. Air Force fighter jets and radar aircraft. It has already been regularly using those assets to conduct strikes and defend ships.
Late Wednesday, American F/A-18 fighter jets struck and destroyed 10 Houthi drones that were prepared to launch, as well as a ground control station used by the rebels, the U.S. military said.
The U.S. also intercepted a ballistic missile and other drones already in the air during the day.