WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (KUNA) -- The White House said the US Departments of State and Defense are leading a coordinated effort to strengthen and expand the 39-member combined maritime forces to counter the Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said, "We've all seen I know you all seen the recent attacks on maritime shipping by the Houthi missiles and drones fired by them from Yemen and targeting commercial vessels."
"These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and a freedom of navigation.
"They've jeopardized the lives of merchant sailors that represent multiple countries all around the world.
"And while they are launched by the Houthis, we certainly have every reason to believe that they're being enabled by Iran," Kirby noted.
On the combined maritime forces he said, "That's a multinational maritime partnership which exists to counter illicit non-state actors in international waters, everything from just basic maritime security to anti-piracy and trafficking.
"Our focus at this time is ensuring that there are sufficient military assets in place to deter these Houthi threats to maritime trade in the Red Sea and in the surrounding waters to the global economy writ large.
"Our focus at this time, is ensuring that there are sufficient military assets in place to deter these Houthi threats to maritime trade in the Red Sea and in the surrounding waters to the global economy writ large, while also encouraging other like-minded nations to join this coalition, and we've actually heard some interest from several key partners that are interested in coming aboard."
Additionally, the Treasury Department announced today sanctions on 13 individuals and entities responsible for providing funds to the Houthis.
The sanctions will further cut off those who facilitated with the attacks and they'll follow a number of sanctions on the Houthis and the IRGC (Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), Kirby noted.
"We are leading an international coordinated effort to condemn these Houthi attacks and their threat to global commerce, including what you think so all in the G7 leader statement that we talked about yesterday, and through targeted efforts to the UN Security Council.
"This is an international problem. And it demands an international solution and that is exactly the approach that the United States is going to take to Now lastly, just want to make one thing clear that the commanding officers of our ships, our Navy ships at sea have and will execute their inherent right of self defense.
"We don't have any conclusive information right now suggest that US Navy ships have been specifically targeted by them," he added. (pickup previous)