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Biden says he’s decided on response to Yemen’s Huthi’s drone strike

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JUPITER—US President Joe Biden said Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) he had decided on a response to a drone strike that killed three American troops in Jordan, while insisting he did not want a wider war in the Middle East.

Facing growing pressure in a US election year, Biden said he held Iran responsible for supplying the weapons to the people who carried out the deadly attack on a military base.

The White House warned that “multiple actions” were likely in retaliation for the first fatal attack on US forces in the region since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October.

A leading pro-Iranian group in Iraq said Tuesday that it would halt attacks on US forces as military action loomed, but there was no sign it would be enough to stop Washington retaliating.

“Yes,” Biden told reporters as he headed for campaign fundraisers in Florida when asked if he had decided on his response, but he did not give details.

“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for,” he added.

In Sanaa, Yemen’s Huthi rebels fired “several” missiles at a US warship in the Red Sea, they said on Wednesday, hours after the US military reported shooting down a missile.

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces, with the help of God Almighty, fired several… naval missiles at the American destroyer USS Gravely in the Red Sea,” the Huthi statement said.

Earlier, US Central Command said the USS Gravely shot down a Huthi missile at about 11:30 pm on Tuesday — the latest in a series of such incidents in the Red Sea.

“Iranian-backed Huthi militants fired one anti-ship cruise missile from Huthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea,” a Centcom statement said.

“The missile was shot down by USS Gravely. There were no injuries or damage reported.”

The Huthis, part of the anti-Western, anti-Israel “axis of resistance” of Iranian-backed groups, have been harassing Red Sea shipping for months, triggering US and British reprisal attacks.

The Huthis have launched more than 30 attacks on commercial shipping and naval vessels since November 19, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The rebels say the attacks are in solidarity with the Palestinians and in protest at the Israel-Hamas war that has been raging in the Gaza Strip since October.

The attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, a vital route that normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

In response, US and British forces have launched two volleys of joint strikes targeting Huthi missile sites and other military facilities. The US has also carried out a series of unilateral strikes.

The US heads a coalition to protect Red Sea shipping, and is seeking to apply diplomatic and financial pressure by redesignating the Huthis as a “terrorist” group.

Tensions have soared in the region since the October 7 attacks by Hamas against Israel, with US forces in Iraq and Syria coming under attack more than 165 times in the intervening months.

The United States and Britain have also launched a campaign of air strikes against Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi militants, who have carried out repeated attacks on shipping in the Red Sea in what they say is solidarity with Gaza.

Late Tuesday, the US military shot down the latest anti-ship missile fired toward the Red Sea by the Huthis, according to US Central Command.

“There were no injuries or damage reported,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

Republicans have urged Democrat Biden to punish Iran for Sunday’s drone strike on a US military facility near the Jordanian-Syrian border, with some urging direct strikes on Iran itself.

Asked whether Iran was to blame for the attack on Jordan, Biden replied: “I do hold them responsible, in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it.”

Biden added that “we’ll have that discussion” when asked if a direct link to Iran had been established.

But his administration believes hitting Iranian territory could cause the region to erupt, with strikes on allied militias and possibly on Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel in other countries more likely, US media reported.

“It’s very possible that what you’ll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action but potentially multiple actions,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The deaths of the service members came as campaigning for the US presidential election in November gets into full swing.

Republican candidate Donald Trump in a fiery statement said that “the world has gone to Hell” under Biden, who “has our country hurtling straight into World War 3.”

Washington will also be careful not to undermine sensitive talks on a new deal to release hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a pause in Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

Tehran has denied any links to the drone strike in Jordan, and said that like Washington it was not seeking an expansion of conflict.

A pro-Iran group in Iraq, Kataeb Hezbollah, said Tuesday it would halt its attacks on US troops as military action loomed.

The militia has not claimed the Jordan attack, but the Pentagon has said it has the group’s “footprints.”

“We’re announcing the suspension of our military and security operations against the occupying forces to avoid any embarrassment for the Iraqi government,” Kataeb Hezbollah wrote on its website.

Asked about the group’s statement, Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder said: “Actions speak louder than words.”

“We have called on the Iranian proxy groups to stop their attacks. They have not. And so we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing,” Ryder said.

The Kremlin, a close ally of Tehran, on Tuesday called for de-escalation in the Middle East.

“In our view, the overall level of tension is very alarming and, on the contrary, now is the time for steps to de-escalate tensions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

China also warned against a “cycle of retaliation” in the Middle East.

Beijing has close ties with both Russia and Iran, with all three seeking to challenge what they say is Washington’s global hegemony.

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