Defense officials say the U.S. and Houthis are not involved in a conflict, nor is the U.S. at war in the Middle East, despite dropping missiles on the Iran-backed group multiple times over the past two weeks.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder was asked by a reporter on Tuesday if the U.S. was on the brink of war in the Middle East. The question came after Ryder fielded another question regarding the U.N. secretary general urging all parties to take a step back from the “brink” and to consider the cost to human life if a regional conflict were to break out.

“We are not at war in the Middle East,” Ryder said. “Clearly, there are significant tensions in the Middle East. And again, we’re working closely with allies and partners to de-escalate and reduce those tensions where we can, recognizing the fact that, you know, others have a vote as well.”

Ryder also said the U.S. has been “very focused” on deterrence and preventing a wider regional conflict in the Middle East.


Houthi supporters protest US decision to redesignate terrorist group

Houthi supporters rally to denounce the U.S. labeling of Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, in Sanaa, Yemen, on Friday, Jan. 19. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

“We’ll stay focused on that,” he said.

The comments came a day after U.S. defense officials said U.S. and U.K. ships and warplanes carried out multiple strikes on Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, striking eight locations.

One of the Houthi targets struck by U.S. and British munitions included Al Dailami Air Base along with missile launching sites and weapons storage facilities for ballistic missiles and drones.


A fighter jet

In this image provided on Friday Jan. 12, 2024 by the UK Ministry of Defence an RAF Typhoon aircraft returns to base at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, after striking targets in Yemen. The U.S. and British militaries bombed more than a dozen sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen late on Thursday Jan. 11, in a massive retaliatory strike using warship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets, U.S. officials said.  (Sgt Lee Goddard, UK Ministry of Defence via AP)

Along with the F-18 super hornets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, guided missile destroyers USS Mason, USS Philippine Sea and USS Gravely assisted with Tomahawk land attack missiles used in the strikes.

“Today’s strike specifically targeted a Houthi underground storage site and locations associated with the Houthis’ missile and air surveillance capabilities,” a joint statement from the U.S. and U.K. on Monday read. “The Houthis’ now more than thirty attacks on international and commercial vessels since mid-November constitute an international challenge.

“Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let us reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats,” the joint statement continued.


F-18 fighter jet takes off

F-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower participated in air strikes on Houthi forces in Yemen on Jan. 22, 2023. (CENTCOM / X)

On Tuesday, Ryder said a ninth attack was conducted about 15-30 minutes after the initial barrage of attacks, destroying an anti-ship cruise missile that was prepared to launch and that presented “an imminent threat to vessels operating in the region.”

Ryder reiterated that the aim is to deescalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea.


“As our joint statement yesterday emphasized, we will not hesitate to defend the lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways, in the face of continued threats,” he said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. also conducted strikes on three facilities used by the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group “in direct response to a series of escalated attacks against U.S. and Coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias,” according to a statement from U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told ABC News that the danger of having a wider war in the region has gone up, putting the blame on the U.S. and Israel for escalating tensions in the region.

“If the U.S. today stops its backing — logistical and weapons, political and media support — of the genocidal war launched by Israel, then I can assure you that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will not survive for 10 minutes,” he asserted. “So the key to solve the problem is in Washington before it is in Tel Aviv.”

Amir-Abdollahian claims the U.S. military is fabricating information that suggests Iran has a weapons smuggling network supplying the Houthis with missile components, which were intercepted in the Arabian Sea while en route to Yemen – the mission resulted in the death of two Navy SEALS.

“Mostly, this is a TV show,” Amir-Abdollahian said, despite U.N. and other foreign governments documenting similar transfers from Iran, ABC reported.

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