The U.S. Navy is sending the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the waters near Yemen in response to reported arms deliveries to Houthis rebels by Iran.
The warships are prepared to block Iran from reaching the impoverished country located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.
Last week Iran reportedly dispatched an armada of seven to nine ships to Yemen. U.S. defense officials characterized the mission as an effort to arm the Houthis.
In January Houthi rebels seized the presidential palace in the capital, Sana’a, and ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi who is supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia. In March, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf emirate allies began conducting airstrikes against the Houthis.
On Saturday Iran deemed accusations leveled by Saudi Arabia that it is arming the Shia rebels as “ridiculous.”
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi countered by saying Saudi Arabia is using U.S. weapons in airstrikes against the rebels.
“We’re assisting the Saudis to protect their own territory and to conduct operations that are designed to lead ultimately to a political settlement to Yemen,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Thursday.
“We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest responded when asked about the naval maneuvers. “That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country. These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.”
The U.S. wants to prevent the Houthis from receiving game-changing weapons such as surface-to-air missiles to challenge the Saudi bombing offensive.
Earlier this month U.S. naval forces in the Red Sea searched a Panamanian-flagged ship but did not find munitions.