Biden official gets heated in argument with reporter who asks whether US has escalated Gaza war through Red Sea presence – Fox News

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White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby got into an argument with a reporter who claimed the United States had provoked Iran with its naval presence in the Middle East.

During Wednesday's press conference, the reporter asked Kirby whether President Biden had expanded and escalated the war between Israel and Hamas by using naval forces to counter attacks on ships by Iran-backed proxy groups.

“That definitely turns things upside down, doesn't it?” replied a confused Kirby. “Wouldn’t you consider launching commercial ballistic missiles and drones as a provocation? [vessels]?”

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Since October 19, there have been about two dozen attacks on international shipping in Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The Houthis say their attacks are aimed at Israeli-linked ships to stop the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

US-led coalition warns Houthis, promises 'consequences' for Red Sea attacks

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on January 3, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Most recently, the Houthis attacked a Maersk container ship on Saturday. After that attack, a US-led coalition of 13 maritime nations announced consequences for the Houthis if they continued to harass ships in the Red Sea.

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Last month, the US announced the creation of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international initiative to protect merchant ships sailing through the Red Sea. Since then, about 1,200 merchant ships have passed through the region, and as of Saturday, none of them had been hit by drone or missile attacks.

Kirby said Prosperity Guardian was a “defensive posture” taken in response to the Houthi attacks.

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Cargo ships are seen in the Israeli commercial port of Haifa in the Mediterranean on December 13, 2023. In solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, Yemen's Houthis warn that they will attack cargo ships sailing through the Red Sea if they enter Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality. (Mati Milstein/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“So you deny that there has been an escalation since the Red Sea patrol,” the reporter asked.

“I strongly disagree with the premise of your question,” Kirby replied. “It was not the United States that decided to attack merchant shipping in the Red Sea. That's what the Houthis did. And who supports the Houthis? Iran. As I said, Iran provided the missiles that the Houthis are using. “We are simply in a defensive posture to protect commercial shipping and we have done that in the last 48 hours.”

Undeterred, the reporter challenged Kirby, pointing out that Iran had apparently sent a frigate to the Red Sea in response to the US

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“I ask you again: Did the actions of the United States thereby support escalation?” she said.

“No,” Kirby replied.

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The US-led coalition against the Houthi attacks includes Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In a joint statement, the nations called attacks on Red Sea trade “unacceptable” and “illegal.”


Five warships from the US, France and Britain are currently patrolling the waters of the southern Red Sea and the western Gulf of Aden. The ships have so far shot down a total of 17 drones and four anti-ship missiles.

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Fox News Digital's Anders Hagstrom and Bradford Betz contributed to this report.