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As Houthis vow to fight on, U.S. prepares for sustained campaign

Officials say they don’t expect operations in Yemen to last years, but they acknowledge it’s unclear when the group’s military capability will be sufficiently eroded

Thousands of Houthi supporters on Jan. 19 attended a rally in Sanaa, Yemen to protest against the U.S. government designating Houthis as a terror group. (Video: Reuters)
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The Biden administration is crafting plans for a sustained military campaign targeting the Houthis in Yemen after 10 days of strikes failed to halt the group’s attacks on maritime commerce, stoking concern among some officials that an open-ended operation could derail the war-ravaged country’s fragile peace and pull Washington into another unpredictable Middle Eastern conflict.

The White House convened senior officials on Wednesday to discuss options for the way ahead in the administration’s evolving response to the Iranian-backed movement, which has vowed to continue attacking ships off the Arabian peninsula despite near-daily operations to destroy Houthi radars, missiles and drones. On Saturday, U.S. Central Command announced its latest strike, on an anti-ship missile that was prepared for launch.

The deepening cycle of violence is a setback to President Biden’s goal of stemming spillover hostilities triggered by Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Underscoring the threat, Iran on Saturday blamed Israel for a strike on the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed five Iranian military advisers. The Israeli military declined to comment. In Iraq, an attack on Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts Iraqi and U.S. troops, left one Iraqi soldier seriously injured, according to a Defense Department official. An Iran-linked faction there said it was responsible.