The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Why Are the U.S. and Iran Sending Warships to the Yemeni Coast?

The United States has deployed two more warships to take up position off the Yemeni coast, joining seven other American naval vessels already patrolling the area and a veritable flotilla of Iranian ships that have been rapidly moving toward the war-ravaged country. The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy are arriving ...

American warships including the USS Theodore Roosevelt are making for the Yemeni coast.
American warships including the USS Theodore Roosevelt are making for the Yemeni coast.
American warships including the USS Theodore Roosevelt are making for the Yemeni coast.

The United States has deployed two more warships to take up position off the Yemeni coast, joining seven other American naval vessels already patrolling the area and a veritable flotilla of Iranian ships that have been rapidly moving toward the war-ravaged country.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy are arriving just as two Iranian warships have taken up position in the Gulf of Aden, heightening tensions between the two rivals just as fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and Yemeni forces supported by Saudi Arabia and other American allies intensifies.

For weeks, a Saudi-led coalition has been conducting daily airstrikes against the Houthis. Washington isn't taking part in the bombing runs, but the United States has been refueling warplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the air in between bombing runs. Saudi Arabia claims its campaign is making steady progress, but human rights groups say not enough is being done to prevent civilian casualties.

The United States has deployed two more warships to take up position off the Yemeni coast, joining seven other American naval vessels already patrolling the area and a veritable flotilla of Iranian ships that have been rapidly moving toward the war-ravaged country.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy are arriving just as two Iranian warships have taken up position in the Gulf of Aden, heightening tensions between the two rivals just as fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and Yemeni forces supported by Saudi Arabia and other American allies intensifies.

For weeks, a Saudi-led coalition has been conducting daily airstrikes against the Houthis. Washington isn’t taking part in the bombing runs, but the United States has been refueling warplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the air in between bombing runs. Saudi Arabia claims its campaign is making steady progress, but human rights groups say not enough is being done to prevent civilian casualties.

Riyadh and Washington have long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons and other military equipment, and there are concerns that the Iranian ships may attempt to funnel new armaments to the Houthis through the port of Aden, portions of which have fallen to the rebels.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to comment on the U.S. Navy’s latest moves during his Monday press briefing, but did say that the United States has long been concerned about Iran’s “continued support” for the Houthi rebels.

“We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen,” Earnest said. “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.”

Despite the tough talk, though, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Monday that the Navy was simply conducting routine “maritime security operations” near Yemen and insisted that the ships are “not going to intercept Iranian ships.”

Tehran, for its part, says that its ships are conducting routine anti-piracy activities in the gulf. On April 18, the commander of the Iranian navy, Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, said that “our presence and measures in the area are within the framework of international laws,” according to the Iranian state-owned PressTV.

U.S. Navy photo

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.