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U.S. Forces ‘Closely Monitoring’ Iranian Warships Near Yemen

Ships suspected of containing weapons, military supplies for Yemen rebels

A warship prepares to leave Iranian waters / AP
• May 21, 2015 1:50 pm

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U.S. military forces are "closely monitoring" an Iranian ship bound for Yemen that is said to contain aid for the warring factions in that country, according to multiple Pentagon officials.

The aid ship is reported to be accompanied by at least two Iranian warships also in the region, where Iran and the United States are supporting opposite sides in the conflict between rebel forces and the Yemeni government.

Western nations suspect that Iran has been using so-called aid ships to help deliver weapons and other military supplies to the Yemeni rebels.

The Iranian aid ship is expected to arrive on Thursday. The Pentagon has been "closely monitoring" the ship’s movements, according to a senior Pentagon official.

Another Defense Department spokesman said that the United States continues "to monitor the activity in the Gulf of Aden with respect to the Iranian humanitarian aid ship," which will be subject to inspections by the United Nations.

Iran claims that the ship currently bound for Yemen contains pharmaceuticals and medial equipment. It has agreed to let international inspectors examine the cargo before proceeding to Yemen.

U.S. officials have encouraged Iran to deliver aid in a transparent manner.

"Providing assistance through the established international humanitarian system is a proven effective means of providing humanitarian assistance to those in need," Maj. Roger Cabiness II, a Defense Department spokesman, said on Thursday.

"We encourage all parties to allow for the unimpeded entry and delivery of essential relief items to the civilian population, including urgently needed food, medicine, and fuel, through U.N. and international humanitarian organization channels," he said.

The United States continues to work with Saudi Arabia to combat the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Cabiness added.

"The Department of Defense continues to provide logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition in response to ongoing aggressive Houthi military actions which threaten Saudi Arabia’s southern border," he said.

Iran has threatened that any interference with its warships and assets near Yemen would "spark war in the region"

"Attacking the Iranian Red Crescent aid ship will spark war in the region," General Massoud Jazzayeri was quoted as telling Arabic media last week. "And this fire may not be put out or brought under control."

Iranian officials have also claimed that the country’s warships have pursued U.S. assets in the area, though Pentagon officials have denied these claims.

Meanwhile, Iranian media claimed on Thursday that "three foreign warships" were spotted trailing its aid ship.

"The intention of the three foreign warships is not clear yet," Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency reported.

The presence of Iranian warships in the Gulf of Aden has stoked greater tensions between the United States and Iran in recent weeks and set the stage for potential complications in the ongoing talks over the Islamic Republic’s contested nuclear program.

Iran has used the conflict as a means to increase its regional influence and to threaten U.S. credibility.

Iran’s defense ministry, in a statement issued last week, accused America of backing war criminals.

"The U.S. is an accomplice to the war criminals by supporting genocide in Yemen and the Iranian people’s food and drug aid is a humanitarian move to soothe the oppressed Yemeni people’s pains," the defense ministry statement read.

Published under: Iran, Military, Navy, Yemen