US needs to respond to Houthis after Red Sea attacks, former Middle East commander says

Last updated on December 8, 2023

Retired Gen. Frank McKenzie, who commanded all U.S. forces in the Middle East for three years during the Trump and Biden presidencies, believes President Joe Biden should respond more forcefully to attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea — even as top administration officials remain wary of provoking Iran.

The former head of U.S. Central Command said Iran has taken the lack of a strong U.S. military response to the recent spike in Tehran-backed Houthi attacks on civilian vessels, which pose a threat to U.S. warships, as an invitation to continue its aggressive behavior.

“Sometimes you’ve got to throw a pitch,” McKenzie said in an interview. “You can’t catch eternally, because eventually the law of averages is going to turn against you, and you’re going to take a significant escalatory event on a ship, and then you’re going to be forced into an even more significant level of response.”

“We’ve given them no reason not to continue [attacking],” he said of the Houthis.