The probability of a major escalation over the latest proxy Middle Eastern civil war just escalated substantially.
While it has been widely reported that the United States has been accelerating its weapons supply to the Saudi-led coalition striking rebels in Yemen as a sign of how foreign powers are deepening their involvement in the conflict, the biggest regional backer of the Houthi rebels, the state of Iran, had been mostly inert. Until this morning, when as AP reports, Iran dispatched a naval destroyer and another vessel Wednesday to waters near Yemen.
According to Iran's English-language state broadcaster Press TV, the official reason for the mini flotilla is a peacekeeping mission meant to deter piracy. It quoted Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying the ships would be part of an anti-piracy campaign "safeguarding naval routes for vessels in the region." The real reason has nothing to do with pirates and everything to do with showing that there is another interest party in a conflict that until now has seen unilateral involvement mainly by the Saudi-led and US supported Gulf Arab air campaign targeting the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis.
As for the topic of US support, speaking a day earlier in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken blamed the violence in Yemen on the Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, saying that the U.S. is committed to defending Saudi Arabia.
"We have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination and planning cell in the Saudi operations center," he said in a statement to reporters after meeting with Saudi royals and Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled his country amid rebel advances.
Ironically, the U.S. said that the chaos has allowed the local al-Qaida branch, which it considers the world's most dangerous wing of the group, to make "great gains" on the ground, causing Washington to rethink how it prevents it from launching attacks in the West.
"Ironic", because as reported previously, it was the US' own hasty departure from the Houthi overrun country that provided $500 millions of dollars in "misplaced" modern weaponry and supplies to these same rebels.
That was the US side of things. Here is Iran's via Press TV:
The 34th fleet of the Iranian Navy has left for the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab Strait in line with the country’s policy of safeguarding naval routes for vessels in the region.
The flotilla, which comprises the Bushehr logistic vessel and Alborz destroyer, left Iran’s southern port city of Bandar Abbas on Wednesday, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on the sidelines of a ceremony to deploy the fleet.
The Alborz destroyer shown here in a Feb. 21, 2010 file photo.
More from Press TV:
The commander said that the 34th Fleet is sent on a mission “to provide [safety for] Iran’s shipping lines and protect the Islamic Republic of Iran’s interests in the high seas.” Sayyari said that the flotilla also seeks to ensure safety for the vessels against pirates.
The Navy observes international law while conducting its mission in the north of the Indian Sea with full power, the commander stressed.
In recent years, Iran’s Navy has increased its presence in international waters to protect naval routes and provide security for merchant vessels and tankers.
In line with international efforts against piracy, the Iranian Navy has also been conducting patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 in order to safeguard merchant containers and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran or other countries.
Iran’s Navy has managed to foil several attacks on both Iranian and foreign tankers during its missions in international waters.
As Al-Arabia adds, "Iran has condemned the campaign and called for dialogue. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of providing military support to the Houthis, a charge the Islamic Republic denies. The Iranian ships will patrol the Gulf of Aden, south of Yemen, and the Red Sea, Sayyari said. The area is one of the world's most important shipping routes and a gateway between Europe and the Middle East."
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And now the punchline: as the following Naval update map shows, the two Iran warships will now be located in the immediate vicinity of not only two US aircraft carriers, CVN-71 Teddy Roosevelt and CVN-70 Vinson, but well as the big-deck amphibious warship Iwo Jima which as reported before is providing marine support should the situation demand it.
All of this means the odds of a naval "accident" involving one or more warships in the Red Sea just went up substantially.