WASHINGTON, APR 25: A convoy of Iranian ships headed toward Yemen is now moving away from the war-torn country, days after the U.S. deployed warships to the Yemeni coast, according to two U.S. defense officials.
One of those American ships, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has also been redirected away from Yemen to the Persian Gulf.
The Iranian ships turned away from Yemen on Thursday and on Friday continued to move northeast, back in the direction of Iran.
“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,” Pentagon Spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday. He also said that there had been no communication between Iranian and U.S. forces at any point.
Multiple U.S. officials had told CNN that the American ships had been deployed to the region to dissuade the nine-vessel Iranian convoy, which included armed ships, from docking in Yemen, where Iran has been supporting and arming the Houthi rebellion.
One of the defense officials who told CNN of the Iranian convoy’s movements called the turnaround a “promising sign.”
While U.S. administration spokesmen had downplayed the link between the U.S. warships and the Iranian convoy, President Barack Obama said earlier this week that the U.S. was sending “very direct messages” warning Iran against attempts to arm the Houthis.
U.S. officials had stressed this week that Iranian attempts to arm Houthi rebels would be a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, and officials have been urging the Iranians to keep away from the turbulent Gulf nation.
The U.S. has walked a fine line as it looks to quell the situation in Yemen. It has sought to reassure Gulf allies like Saudi Arabia that are engaged in a proxy war with Iran in Yemen — allies that support the deposed Yemeni government that had been cooperating with the U.S. in fighting an al-Qaeda affiliate. But it is also looking to keep tensions with Iran to a minimum as American diplomats work to secure a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
Those negotiations got underway again earlier this week with diplomats from the U.S., five other world powers and Iran working to seal a final accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program and provide Tehran sanctions relief by the June deadline for a deal.