- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Having a carrier in the Arabian Sea gives the U.S. more options as security continues to deteriorate in Yemen, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, said that while a flotilla of nine Iranian cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden is partly the reason for boosting the U.S. naval presence in the area, the primary reason for sending more ships to the region is to preserve shipping lanes and maritime security.

“The Iranian ships are certainly one of the factors, but they are not the reason they are there,” Col. Warren said.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Normandy moved into the Arabian Sea on Monday. The Associated Press reported the American ships were sent to block Iranian ships from delivering weapons to the Houthis, though the Pentagon strongly denied that as the reason for the move.

Col. Warren said the additional ships will stay “as long as the combatant commander feels they need to stay there.”

Saudi Arabia has been conducting airstrikes in Yemen for weeks against the Houthis, an Iranian-backed group who took over the government and caused Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee last month.

While there is currently no naval threat to the fight, Col. Warren pointed to a recent shipwreck off the coast of Libya that killed nearly 700 refugees fleeing violence from the Islamic State as evidence that land-based conflicts can quickly spill over into the maritime domain and require more assets.

“We need to preserve and creation options for ourselves,” he said.

So far, the Iranian ships have not demonstrated any threat or made any direct contact with the U.S. ships, Col. Warren said. He also declined to speculate on what circumstances would be necessary for U.S. sailors to board the Iranian ships.

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