US sends car­rier to Ye­men wa­ters to keep eye on Iran con­voy


A U.S. air­craft car­rier was headed to the Ara­bian Sea Tues­day as Wash­ing­ton said it was mon­i­tor­ing Ira­nian ves­sels sus­pected of car­ry­ing weapons to Huthi rebels in Ye­men in vi­o­la­tion of a U.N. em­bargo.

The U.S. Navy said it was send­ing the USS Theodore Roo­sevelt and guided-mis­sile cruiser USS Nor­mandy “to en­sure the vi­tal ship­ping lanes in the re­gion re­main open and safe”.

The de­ploy­ment brings to nine the num­ber of U.S. war­ships in the area.

The Ira­nian con­voy is com­prised of nine ships, in­clud­ing two pa­trol boats, a se­nior U.S. de­fense of­fi­cial told AFP, say­ing its ex­act des­ti­na­tion was un­known.

U.S. de­fense depart­ment spokesman Col. Steven War­ren de­nied re­ports the U.S. war­ships have or­ders to in­ter­cept the Ira­nian ves­sels.

Strate­gi­cally lo­cated on key ship­ping routes and bor­der­ing oil-rich Saudi Ara­bia, Ye­men was plunged into chaos last year when the Iran­backed Shi­ite rebels seized the cap­i­tal Sanaa.

A coali­tion of Sunni Arab na­tions led by Saudi Ara­bia launched an air cam­paign against the rebels last month, vow­ing to re­store the author­ity of Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi, who fled to Riyadh as the rebels ad­vanced on his south­ern refuge Aden.

The United States says it is not tak­ing part di­rectly in the strikes, but is pro­vid­ing in­tel­li­gence and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port.

U.S. of­fi­cials said that if an in­ter­cep­tion of the Ira­nian ves­sels proved nec­es­sary, it would likely be car­ried out by war­ships of the Saudi-led coali­tion.

One said the con­voy had passed through the Strait of Hor­muz to leave the Gulf and was now headed west, po­ten­tially to­wards Ye­men.

Saudi- led war­planes pressed their air strikes against the rebels and their al­lies in the se­cu­rity forces overnight as the civil­ian death toll from a Mon­day raid on a mis­sile de­pot in the cap­i­tal rose to 38.

A fur­ther 532 peo­ple were wounded when the twin strikes sparked pow­er­ful ex­plo­sions that flat­tened nearby houses, medics said.

The base be­longs to the mis­sile brigade of the elite Repub­li­can Guard, which re­mains loyal to for­mer Pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh who has been ac­cused of sid­ing with the Huthis in their fight against Hadi’s forces.

Rebel spokesman Mo­hammed Ab­dul­salam slammed the “bar­baric crime” in­sist­ing on his Face­book page that the “ag­gres­sion will only unite the Ye­meni peo­ple.”

A Saudi spokesman made no com­ment at a Mon­day me­dia brief­ing.

Saudi Re­jects Ban Peace Call

The coali­tion says it has car­ried out more than 2,000 strikes since the start of the cam­paign, gain­ing com­plete con­trol of Ye­meni airspace and knock­ing out rebel in­fra­struc­ture.

Any chance of a swift diplo­matic so­lu­tion faded as Saudi Am­bas­sador Ab­dal­lah al-Moual­limi told U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon “cer­tain con­di­tions” must be met for the air cam­paign to be suspended.

He said those were clearly spelt out in a res­o­lu­tion adopted by the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil last week which im­posed the arms em­bargo on the rebels.

The res­o­lu­tion de­mands that the Huthis pull back from all the ter­ri­tory they have seized, in­clud­ing from Sanaa, and that they re­turn to peace talks.

Ban had called on Thurs­day for an “im­me­di­ate cease­fire” and time for a “pas­sage to real peace.”

The U.N. says the con­flict has left hun­dreds dead and thou­sands wounded, and there has been in­creas­ing con­cern of a ma­jor hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

Iran — Saudi Ara­bia’s re­gional ri­val — has of­fered to me­di­ate and set out a four-point peace plan but it was re­jected by Hadi’s gov­ern­ment on Mon­day.

“Any me­di­a­tion ef­fort com­ing from Iran is un­ac­cept­able be­cause Iran is in­volved in the Ye­men is­sue,” For­eign Min­is­ter Riyadh Yassin said.

Ye­men has long strug­gled with deep tribal di­vi­sions and an in­sur­gency by al-Qaida in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), con­sid­ered by Wash­ing­ton as the ji­hadist net­work’s most danger­ous branch.

Al-Qaida has taken ad­van­tage of the chaos to seize swathes of ter­ri­tory in Hadra­mawt prov­ince in the southeast, in­clud­ing its cap­i­tal Mukalla.

On Mon­day, a U.S. drone strike killed five sus­pected al-Qaida mil­i­tants in the neigh­bor­ing prov­ince of Shabwa.


Smoke rises af­ter a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site where many be­lieve the largest weapons cache in Ye­men’s cap­i­tal is held, Sanaa on Tues­day, April 21.

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