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Iran is enabling attacks on shipping in Red Sea, White House says

The White House is blaming Iran for a spate of recent attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea by Tehran-backed Houthi rebels and is contemplating retaliatory actions along with allies, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday.

Mr Sullivan said it was not known whether any of the three ships that were attacked over the weekend had any ties to Israel, but he told reporters at a White House press briefing that any such ties would not have made any of the ships a legitimate target under international law.

“The position of the United States consistent with the position of the UN Security Council and consistent with the position of maritime nations across the world, is that attacks on commercial shipping and international waters are totally unacceptable and have to stop,” he said.

Mr Sullivan added that the US is now “engaging in intensive consultations with partners and allies to determine the appropriate next steps,” and said US officials are now in “ongoing” talks about an international “maritime task force” to protect shipping.

“We are going to take appropriate action in consultation with others and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing,” he continued.

The US national security adviser also said the American government has “taken a number of steps” — including deploying two aircraft carrier battle groups to the Middle East — meant to keep the Israel-Hamas conflict from spiralling into a larger war or “a full-on regional conflagration,” but he stressed that at this time the Biden administration is blaming Iran — not just Tehran’s Houthi proxies — for the attacks.

“The Houthis ... they’re the ones with their finger on the trigger, but that gun — the weapons here — are being supplied by Iran,” he said. “And Iran, we believe, is the ultimate party responsible for this.”