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Possible Military Showdown Developing: US and Saudi Arabia vs Iran and Houthis

Mon April 20 2015 2:47 pm
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Powerful explosions rocked the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday as Saudi-led airstrikes targeted suspected weapons’ caches and missiles held by Shiite rebels.

The US Navy is reporting that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), transited the Strait of Hormuz from its station in the Arabian Gulf to the Arabian Sea on April 19, 2015.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy have joined other U.S. forces conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Southern Red Sea.

In recent days, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence in this area as a result of the current instability in Yemen.

The purpose of these operations is to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe. The United States remains committed to its regional partners and to maintaining security in the maritime environment.

However, the US Navy is denying that media reports are accurate that the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was entering Yemeni waters to intercept an Iranian ship. Several media sources were reporting Monday that ships were moving into the area to intercept an Iranian convoy and stop arm shipments that support the Houthis rebels that overtook Yemen. Led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the group succeeded in a coup d’état in January 2015 and maintains control of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, and the parliament.

Houthi rebels seized the presidential palace in the capital on January 20, 2015. President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was in the presidential palace during the rebel takeover but was not harmed. The Houthis officially took control of the Yemeni government on February 6, 2015, dissolving parliament and declaring its Revolutionary Committee to be the acting authority in Yemen. On March 20, 2015, The al-Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques came under suicide attack during midday prayers with blasts that killed 142 Houthi worshippers and wounded more than 351. ISIL quickly claimed responsibility for the deadliest terrorist attack in Yemen’s history.

The insurgency occurred four months after President Barack Obama cited Yemen as an example of a successful strategy of combating terrorism, implying the US would continue the strategy in resolving the crisis with ISIL.

This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out [the Islamic State] wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.

— President Barack Obama in speech outlining his plan to combat ISIL (September 2014)

In September 2014 and the war on terror in Yemen was being touted as a “success” in speeches by President Obama. By February 2015, Yemen rebels seized U.S. Embassy vehicles in the capital of Sanaa on Wednesday as diplomats fled the country. Over 25 United States vehicles were taken by Houthi rebels after Americans departed the city’s airport. US Marines and other security officials were ordered to flee without their weapons. Several other foreign embassies also closed during the Houthi advances.

They destroyed heavier weapons, such as machine guns, before departing the shuttered U.S. Embassy in an “orderly” evacuation.

— Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman

In April 2015 dozens of Americans are still stranded in the conflict in Yemen as Saudi Arabia conducts airstrikes in attempt to kill the Houthis. While many other countries evacuated their citizens, the United States reported that it is too dangerous for the military to directly evacuate American nationals. India evacuated about 5,000 of its citizens. At least 75 American families waiting at the port have run out of food and money while bombing has decimated Aden, Yemen.

CNN’s Nima Elbagir takes a look inside the besieged Yemeni city of Aden.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest claims it’s unfair to claim the United States has been on the sidelines, and comments on airstrikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen, and how they might affect negotiations surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

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