Jan 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

White House: U.S. “fully anticipated” Houthi retaliatory strikes

ohn Kirby speaks during a briefing to the media at the White House on January 9,

John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Jan. 9. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

The U.S. "fully anticipated" that Yemen's Houthi rebels would conduct retaliatory strikes after the U.S. and U.K. conducted airstrikes against the group last week, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday.

Why it matters: Amid fears of an escalation in the Red Sea and growing U.S. military involvement, Kirby stressed that the U.S. is "not looking for a war."

Driving the news: Days after the U.S. and U.K. airstrikes, the Houthis struck a U.S.-owned ship near the coast of Yemen on Monday.

  • Kirby said Tuesday the Houthis had launched retaliatory strikes over the past few days, but noted that they were "much smaller" than those seen before and ineffective.
  • "We fully anticipated when we launched that salvo on Friday night that that the Houthis would probably conduct some retaliatory strikes," Kirby added.
  • U.S. Central Command announced on Tuesday that U.S. forces had conducted a strike in Yemen, destroying four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles that had been prepared to launch.

State of play: Kirby also lauded the effectiveness of last week's strikes by the U.S. and U.K. strikes against the Houthis, saying they succeeded in degrading the rebels' capabilities to conduct future strikes.

  • "The strikes were designed to degrade and disrupt their military activity — their ability to store, launch, and to guide these missiles to their target," he added.
  • However, Kirby noted that the U.S. had not expected the strikes to completely eliminate the Houthis' offensive capabilities.

What they're saying: The Houthis "have a choice to make about what they do with that capability. If they choose to keep conducting these attacks, we will continue to defend against them and counter them as appropriate, even as we did today," Kirby said.

The big picture: The Houthis have conducted dozens of attacks on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November.

  • The attacks have snarled international shipping routes and prompting fears of a wider regional conflict in the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas war.
  • Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Central Command announced that U.S. Navy SEALs seized a cache of Iranian-supplied missile parts and other weaponry bound for the Houthis.

Go deeper: What to know about Yemen's Houthi rebels and the Red Sea conflict

Go deeper