Iranian warships join cargo flotilla near Yemen; questions raised over its direction
WASHINGTON — Iranian warships have joined a flotilla of cargo vessels that the U.S. military is tracking in the Gulf of Aden, according to the Pentagon.
Spokesman Col. Steve Warren on Thursday would not say whether the convoy was headed to Yemen or had turned away, as some news organizations are reporting.
FARS, the official Iranian news agency, reported that an Iranian destroyer and a helicopter-carrying warship had arrived in the Gulf of Aden to protect the country’s cargo ships.
The nine cargo ships are suspected of carrying arms destined for Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, which are fighting forces loyal to the U.S.-supported government.
Warren said the Pentagon doesn’t know whether the Iranian cargo ships are carrying weapons. There has been no communication between the U.S. and Iranian vessels, he said.
The U.S. Navy has beefed up its presence in the region in recent days, partly in response to concerns about the flotilla. There are nine American warships in the region, including the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The Roosevelt, which carries combat planes and reconnaissance aircraft, is about 200 nautical miles from the Iranian ships, according to the Navy.
“We’re keeping a close eye on them,” Warren said. “They remain in the region. They have not announced their intentions and we continue to monitor their activities,” he told reporters.