By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015 – The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy are now operating in the Arabian Sea in response to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, a Defense Department spokesman said today.
Briefing the Pentagon press corps here this morning, Army Col. Steve Warren said the U.S. warships “are operating [in the Arabian Sea] with a very clear mission to ensure that shipping lanes remain open, to ensure there's freedom of navigation through those critical waterways, and to help ensure maritime security.”
On April 19, the Roosevelt, escorted by the Normandy, transited the Strait of Hormuz from its station in the Arabian Gulf to the Arabian Sea, according to a recent release from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs.
The Roosevelt and the Normandy have joined other U.S. forces conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Southern Red Sea, the release said.
Situation in Yemen
In January, Houthi militiamen took over the presidential palace in Sanaa and shortly afterward President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi resigned and ultimately fled to Aden, according to press reports, leaving the rebel group from Northern Yemen in charge of the capital.
The Houthis represent the country’s Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
Near the end of March, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began launching air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen.
During his first official press briefing on April 16, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States is helping Saudi Arabia “protect their own territory and conduct operations … designed to lead ultimately to a political settlement in Yemen. That is our understanding and our objective.”
U.S. Sea Power in the Gulf of Aden
The Defense Department also is watching a convoy of nine Iranian cargo ships now in international waters in the Gulf of Aden, Warren said. According to news reports, the ships may be trying to deliver arms to support the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“They have not declared their intentions or [indicated] what they're going to do,” Warren said. “At this point [the ships] have demonstrated no … threat.”
He added that having American sea power close by will allow the United States to keep a close eye on the cargo ships.
“By having U.S. ships in the region,” Warren said, “we … preserve options should the security situation deteriorate to the point where there is a problem or a threat to freedom of navigation or to the shipping lanes or to overall maritime security.”