The Cable

Tensions Cool as U.S., Iranian Ships Back Out of the Gulf of Aden

The Iranian "flotilla" looks to be heading back home, defusing tensions in the Gulf of Aden


American and Iranian naval vessels appear to have avoided a collision course in the Gulf of Aden, with both nations turning their ships around.

The nine Iranian ships suspected of carrying arms for the Houthi rebels in Yemen are slowly sailing back in the direction of Iran, Meanwhile, the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier is headed back to the Arabian Gulf, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said Friday.

The Iranian ships turned tail first and are currently off the coast of Oman. That prompted the American carrier to turn around.

“I think it’s fair to say that this appears to be a de-escalation of some of the tensions that were being discussed earlier in the week,” Warren said. He said that while the Iranian ships are headed in the direction of their home port, “we do not know their future intentions.”

The ships were never in radio contact, and came only as close as about 200 miles from each other over the past two days off Yemen’s coast.

The United Nations Security Council has passed an arms embargo against supplying weapons to Houthi leadership. Both the United States and Saudi Arabia have long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons and military training.

On the ground in Yemen, the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Houthi rebels has slowed, and the Saudis now say that they’ve transitioned to a humanitarian mission to help those displaced by weeks of daily air strikes. U.S. personnel continue to work closely with the Saudi military in what U.S. officials have described as a “joint planning cell” in Riyadh to provide intelligence and logistics support.

American aircraft have also flown daily aerial refueling missions for Saudi and allied aircraft flying over Yemen.

The handful of American forces will remain at that planning cell for the near future, U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder said Friday, as “the Saudis have said they may continue limited operations to counter certain ongoing Houthi military operations in Yemen.”

U.S. Navy photo

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