Proxy war, anyone? A US Navy aircraft carrier is headed for waters near Yemen amid concerns that Iran is sending fresh arms to Shiite Houthi rebels there, the AP reports. The USS Theodore Roosevelt will join other US ships in the area while roughly eight Iranian vessels, possibly carrying arms, may be steaming toward Yemen. Navy officials revealed the move anonymously and said the Roosevelt would be a deterrent, not an offensive weapon. Publicly, a Pentagon spokesman denied that the Roosevelt and its accompanying cruiser, USS Normandy, were there to intercept arms, Reuters reports. The US Navy said it was beefing up its Yemen presence simply to "ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe."
The move comes as Saudi Arabia and its allies are trying to crush the Houthi rebels, who grabbed Yemen's capital city of Sanaa last year and seized power in northern provinces. The West says Iran is shipping arms to the Houthis, which Tehran denies. Meanwhile, the US is giving intelligence and logistical backing to Sunni airstrikes in Yemen; one such attack targeting a scud missile base in Sanaa just killed dozens and wounded 300, Yemeni officials told Al Jazeera today. Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, is said to be near collapse. All of this while the US and six other nations are trying to wrap up a controversial deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (Read about a joint military force being set up by the Arab League.)