US sends aircraft carrier to Yemeni waters

US sends aircraft carrier to Yemeni waters
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The Pentagon is sending a U.S. aircraft carrier to waters around Yemen following Iran's deployment of seven to nine ships to the region, some carrying weapons.

The U.S. on Sunday sent the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Normandy, a guided-missile cruiser, to the Gulf of Aden, said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren on Monday.

The Pentagon said the U.S. ships are not going to the region to intercept the Iranian ships headed to Yemen.

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"Certainly it's going there because of Yemeni instability, but it's not going there to intercept any ships," said Warren.

He said the Roosevelt -- which was in the Persian Gulf -- was sent through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Aden to conduct "maritime security operations."

The deployment comes after The Hill reported on Friday that Iran was sending the armada of ships — some carrying arms — potentially to resupply the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

In regards to the convoy, Warren said, "We're keeping a very close eye on maritime activities in that region."

Iran's move threatens to raise the stakes of the conflict, which has become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Sunni Gulf states in an air campaign against the Houthi rebels -- which the U.S. is supporting with intelligence and logistics.

The coalition is also conducting a naval blockade of Yemen, to prevent arms from reaching the Houthis. The U.S. is not participating in the naval blockade, but has sent ships to the region and on April 1, conducted a "consensual boarding" of a Panamanian-flagged vessel under the suspicion it was carrying arms for the Houthis. 

The Roosevelt and the Normandy join at least seven other Navy combat ships in the area.

The U.S. has deployed the destroyers USS Forrest Sherman and USS Winston Churchill, two minesweepers — the USS Sentry and USS Dextrous — and three amphibious ships — the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and USS Fort McHenry — according to the Navy. A dry cargo ship, the USNS Charles Drew, is also in the region.

"In recent days, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence in this area as a result of the current instability in Yemen," said a Navy statement on Monday.

"The purpose of these operations is to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe. The United States remains committed to its regional partners and to maintaining security in the maritime environment," it said.

The U.S. has also pledged to help the coalition ensure that a United Nations Security Council arms embargo enacted last week against the Houthi leadership is enforced. 

This story was updated at 10:02 p.m.