While there were some hopes President Trump would demilitarize US presence in the Middle East, they are quickly getting dashed with every passing day, and following Trump's announcement last week he would implement "safe zones" in Syria which would boost US troop presence in the region, on Friday US officials announced they had moved a Navy destroyer -the USS Cole, which in 2000 was infamously attacked by terrorists while on dock in Yemen's Aden harbor - off the coast of Yemen to protect waterways from Houthi militia aligned with Iran, according to Reuters, citing heightened tension between Washington and Tehran.
More details from Reuters:
The USS Cole arrived in the vicinity of the Bab al-Mandab Strait off southwestern Yemen where it will carry out patrols including escorting vessels, the officials said.
While U.S. military vessels have carried out routine operations in the region in the past, this movement is part of an increased presence there aimed at protecting shipping from the Iran-allied Houthis, they said.
The Houthis are allied to Iran, which is at odds with new U.S. President Donald Trump over its recent test launch of a ballistic missiles. Trump said on Thursday that “nothing is off the table” in dealing with Iran, a day after his national security adviser, Michael Flynn said he was putting Iran “on notice.”
On Friday, tensions with Iran increased further on Friday when the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on 13 people and 12 entities under U.S. Iran sanctions authority.
Earlier this week Houthi insurgents reportedly attacked a Saudi warship off the western coast of Yemen, causing an explosion that killed two crew members. That incident was part of an escalation in combat on Yemen's western coast between the militia and the coalition backing the country's internationally recognized government.
It followed a similar escalation last October, the U.S. military launched cruise missile strikes to knock out three coastal radar sited in areas of Yemen controlled by Houthi forces, retaliating after failed missile attacks on another U.S. destroyer.
For now, the US position on the Yemen war is to remain closely alligned with Saudi Arabia, which continues its relentless bombing campaign of the sovereign nation, in the process killing thousands of innocent civilians. The quid-pro-quo for the US remains a familiar one: selling equipment, ammunition and supplies to Riyadh, and generally not changing the course of US diplomacy in the region.
Meanwhile, as US builds up a navy presence around Yemen, here is the latest positioning of US naval forces around the globe.