White House hoping tensions off Yemen will ‘de-escalate’

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The White House is hoping that tensions in the waters off of Yemen, where a flotilla of Iranian ships and U.S. vessels are now located, can “de-escalate,” communications director Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

“We always have contingency plans,” Psaki said when asked on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” if the American vessels were sent to engage the Iranian ships, which are thought to be carrying arms for Houthi rebels.

“That’s what the United States does. We have the best military in the world. But we also don’t get ahead of predicting or laying out what we might do,” she said.

{mosads}“We’re watching this closely. We’re monitoring this closely. We have a range of abilities, but we’re not going to predict what will happen. Our hope is that this can de-escalate,” she said.

A group of nine Iranian ships appears to be destined for Yemen, possibly to resupply Houthi rebels who have overthrown the country’s government. American officials sent an aircraft carrier and a cruiser to the region after the Iranian ships began to move toward the country.

There were also other U.S. ships already in the region.

“I think you’ll have to just wait and see,” Psaki said when asked whether “all the options were on the table.”

But President Obama said during a Tuesday night interview with MSNBC that the carrier had been moved into position “to make sure that we maintain freedom of navigation.”

Still, the administration has said it is concerned the Iranians could be providing assistance to the rebels.

“What we’ve said to them is that if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that’s a problem,” Obama said. “We’re not sending them obscure messages; we send them very direct messages about it.”

There were hopes this week that a pledge by Saudi Arabia to halt its airstrikes targeting the Houthis would spark a larger ceasefire. Some bombing continued Wednesday, however, leading to concerns that the conflict would get worse.

Updated at 10:51 a.m.

Tags Iran Jen Psaki Yemen

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