Pentagon shoots down reports that Iranian ships are leaving Yemen

Pentagon shoots down reports that Iranian ships are leaving Yemen

The Pentagon said Thursday that a nine-ship Iranian convoy remains in the waters around Yemen, 200 miles away from a U.S. aircraft carrier, despite reports that it was turning back.

"What I will confirm is that they remain in the region. They have not announced their intentions and we continue to monitor their activities," said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren

However, Warren said he could not confirm the specific direction that the convoy of cargo ships was heading. 

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"Ships can change direction at any time, so I don't want to characterize exactly what they're doing," he said. "Let it develop a little bit. If we see a pattern we'll you know." 

Iran sent the nine-ship convoy to the waters around Yemen last week. A U.S. official told The Hill that some of the ships contained weapons, presumably to resupply the Shiite Houthi rebels that Iran has provided military support to in the past. 

In addition, Warren confirmed reports that an additional two Iranian ships — which deployed April 8 but had been in the region — had arrived in the Gulf of Aden. 

An official Iranian news report on Wednesday said the ships, the Alborz destroyer and the Bushehr helicopter-carrier warship, “will protect the country’s cargo ships and oil tankers against pirates.” 

The report said their deployment would last around "three months.” 

The U.S. earlier this week sent the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the cruiser USS Normandy to the Gulf of Aden, joining seven other U.S. combat ships and three U.S. support vessels. 

Saudi Arabia and Egypt also have vessels in the Gulf of Aden to enforce an arms blockade against the Houthi rebels, raising concerns that a military conflict between the coalition and Iran could spark and enflame the region. 

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday it was ending the Operation Decision Storm campaign, and starting a new one. 

The Pentagon poured cold water on the idea that the Saudi-led coalition had ceased airstrikes. 

“We welcome the Saudi announcement of the complete of phase one of their operation. My understanding is that they never announced a cessation of airstrikes.” 

Warren said the U.S. military is still supporting the Saudi-led coalition in its military efforts against the Houthis with logistical, intelligence and refueling support. 

Warren said the U.S. has been putting a refueling tanker in the air “daily.”