WASHINGTON - Washington is facing an increasingly complex and dangerous crisis resulting from the Israel-Hamas war, which has sparked repeated militant attacks and drawn US military attention and assets back to the Middle East.
The United States has deployed two aircraft carriers and other forces in a bid to deter a devastating region-wide conflict. But the current violence in the Middle East – while not rising to that level – still carries significant danger.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen raised the stakes over the weekend by striking commercial vessels in the Red Sea, while a US Navy destroyer shot down several inbound drones as it operated in the area and responded to distress calls.
“Without question there’s been escalation,” but all parties, especially the United States, “are trying to manage these clashes in ways that do not explode into a regional war,” said Mr Jeffrey Feltman, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and former US assistant Secretary of State for near eastern affairs.
However, “I think we should be deeply, deeply worried that step-by-step escalation, while perhaps no party intends it to turn into a regional conflagration, could lead us there,” he said.
The Houthis said they targeted two of the three ships that were hit in the Red Sea on Dec 3, claiming they were Israeli vessels and that such attacks would continue “until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.”
The US Navy shot down three drones launched from Yemen the same day – the targets of which were unclear – and others as well as missiles during the past six weeks, while the Houthis downed an American drone last month.
Mr Feltman said the Houthis and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has repeatedly tr...