"Theodore Roosevelt and Normandy have joined other U.S. forces conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Southern Red Sea," according to a U.S. Navy statement announcing the move.
"In recent days, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence in this area as a result of the current instability in Yemen," continued the statement. "The purpose of these operations is to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe."
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that U.S. Central Command moved the ships because of the deteriorating security situation in Yemen.
Warren specifically denied a media report that the two American ships were being moved so they could assist in the interception of a flotilla of seven to nine Iranian ships headed to Yemen to re-supply Houthi rebels. That flotilla left Iran last week, a U.S. official said today.
“They are not going to intercept Iranian ships,” said Warren. “That is absolutely not the case.”
While the carrier would likely not be used to board an Iranian vessel as a practical matter a Defense official told ABC News that the deterrent effect of a carrier is significant. The authority to board vessels that might be providing weapons to Yemen is allowed under existing U.N. Security Resolutions.
The official said that should an Iranian vessel need to be boarded there are seven other US Navy vessels in the region that could be used including destroyers and the three ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group.
On April 1, the U.S. Navy boarded a Panamanian-flagged ship that was believed might be transporting supplies from Iran to the Houthis. No weapons were found and there have been no other boardings since then.
The United States closed its embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in mid-February.
In late March, the US evacuated 300 military personnel from a base in southern Yemen.