Financial Times 21 April 2015
The US sent an aircraft carrier and a cruiser to the Yemen coast on Monday where they will join a group of US vessels observing Iranian ships in the area.
The navy said the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Normandy, a guided-missile cruiser, were moving from their position in the Gulf to the waters around Yemen.
The Pentagon said the ship deployments were a response to growing instability in Yemen and were designed to ensure that vital shipping lanes in the region remained open.
However, the growing US naval presence near Yemen follows unconfirmed reports that Iran is using its own naval ships to supply weapons to Houthi rebels who have taken control of large parts of the country.
It also comes after the UN Security Council passed a resolution last week that placed an embargo on supplying weapons to the Houthis. The resolution was approved 14-0 with Russia abstaining.
Yemen’s civil strife has increasingly taken on elements of a proxy conflict, with Iran backing the Houthis, who took control of the Yemeni capital last year and have extended their control further south in recent weeks, while Saudi Arabia is leading a regional coalition that is conducting air strikes against the rebels.
The two vessels will join seven other US combat ships and three resupply ships around the Gulf of Aden. While there has been a regular US naval presence in the area for years to take part in anti-piracy operations, the latest deployment follows reports that eight or nine Iranian ships are also near the Yemen coast.
Many of the ships from both countries will be around the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow strip of water between Yemen and Djibouti that links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and a critical bottleneck for oil supplies and other maritime cargo.
Earlier this month, US secretary of state John Kerry said that the Obama administration believed Iran had been providing military support to the Houthi rebels and warned that the US “is not going to stand by while the region is destabilised”.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Normandy had been in the Gulf taking part in military operations against Isis in Iraq and Syria. The decision to move the ships to the Yemen coast demonstrates both the flexibility of US naval power in the region, but also the conflicting demands being placed on the US military.