A senior White House national security official defends repeated US strikes against the Houthis in Yemenamid the militant group’s attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea, which have drawn America into a pattern of back-and-forth retaliatory operations.
“In terms of how this plays out, I think one thing that’s important to keep in mind is that deterrence is not a switch,” said Jon Finer, deputy counsel at the national security from the White House, to the co-anchor of “This Week” on ABC News. Martha Raddatz Sunday. “It requires a pattern and practice of activity over time and is not accessible based on a snapshot of what is happening at any given moment.”
Raddatz had asked Finer: “Where does it stop? We’re at this tit-for-tat stage.”
President Joe Biden acknowledged to reporters last week that the strikes would not stop the Houthis but would continue.
“The goals here go well beyond deterrence,” Finer told Raddatz. “We also seek to degrade the ability of the Houthis to continue to launch these attacks. »
Since strikes against Red Sea shipping began to intensify in recent weeks, the United States has also announced the creation of an international task force primarily tasked with helping protect the Red Sea region against new attacks.
The United States has also taken diplomatic steps, Finer said on “This Week.”
“We imposed sanctions on the Houthis, we got dozens of countries to issue statements condemning their attacks,” he said.
Last week, the Biden administration announced that the Houthis would again be classified as a terrorist organization, reimposing a designation that the White House had previously withdrawn due to concerns about how it could affect Yemen’s ongoing civil war .
“This is not an attack just on the United States,” Finer said. “This is an attack on the entire global economy and the world is standing up and saying they will not tolerate this.”
The Houthis in Yemen and Iran, who the United States considers a key supporter of the Houthis, have said they are carrying out strikes in response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza to eliminate Hamas following the terrorist attack of Hamas on October 7. .
Altercations in the Red Sea, on the border between Israel and Lebanon and at US military sites in Iraq and Syria, as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, have raised fears that the war between Israel and Hamas could turn into a a wider regional conflict.
This is something the United States has said it does not want.
At the same time, U.S. officials have said they must respond to strikes by Iran-allied groups like the Houthis and others.
A U.S. air base in western Iraq came under fire from Iranian-backed fighters on Saturday, military officials said. Finer, on “This Week,” said, “I’m not going to preempt any decisions the president might make, but you can be sure we’re taking this extremely seriously and will have more to say about it soon.” .
Raddatz asked Finer about the U.S. decision not to take more direct action against Iran.
Finer said the United States rejects “the justification and the reasoning that because there is an ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, that that authorizes one group to take action, military action, against the entire world economy, against shippers… who have nothing to do with this conflict. »
He added that “we have held Iran responsible in many ways.”
“We have taken military action against sites in Iraq and Syria linked to (Iran) supporting these militias,” Finer said.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to take this or that action before the decision is made,” he said, “but we’ve been very clear and we’ve been more than willing to take action to hold Iran accountable.” for these attacks in the past.”
Raddatz also asked Finer about the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza, where Israel has continued its campaign against Hamas for several months and where around 25,000 people have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Finer said last month that the White House believed Israel “has not shown enough attention to civilian life” in northern Gaza – echoing what various other senior Biden administration officials have said, trying to balance opposition to Hamas with public concern for the Palestinians. civilians.
Referring to his previous comments, Raddatz asked on Sunday: “Have things changed and what are we doing about them?”
“We have defended Israel’s right to take defensive measures against Hamas so that this threat can no longer be perpetrated against it. But we have also been very clear that the way in which Israel is waging this conflict is of great concern for us. us,” Finer said.
He told Raddatz that the United States had seen a recent “shift” in the fighting, in which Israel began “focusing more on high-value targets, on the Hamas leadership.”
Still, “more humanitarian aid to Gaza is needed,” Finer said.
And while he spoke of “small but significant steps” like progress in opening the border post and the arrival of some goods, he said it was “not enough.”
“So we’re going to continue to push and try to work day in and day out, down to the smallest detail, to make sure that humanitarian aid to Gaza improves as this conflict moves to a different phase,” Finer said. said.