The U.S. Navy sent on Monday two warships to waters near Yemen to conduct maritime security operations, Reuters news agency reported citing a defense official.
The warships have no specific mission to intercept an Iranian arms shipment in the area, the official added amid reports of an Iranian convoy of eight vessels carrying arms in the area.
The U.S. Navy sent the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and escort cruiser USS Normandy from the Gulf into the Arabian Sea on Sunday. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, denied reports the ships were on a mission to intercept Iranian arms shipments to Yemen.
However, navy officials told the Associated Press (AP) that the American ships are prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi militias in Yemen.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ship movement on the record, AP reported.
The Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of about eight Iranian ships is heading toward Yemen and possibly carrying arms for the Houthis.
The deployment of the two ships brings the total number of American ships in the area to nine, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not comment specifically on any Navy movements in Yemeni waters, but said the U.S. has concerns about Iran’s “continued support for the Houthis.”
“We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen. That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country. These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.”
“The Iranians are acutely aware of our concerns for their continued support of the Houthis by sending them large shipments of weapons,” he told AP.