WASHINGTON — A US aircraft carrier and a guided-missile cruiser are leaving the waters off Yemen and heading back to the Gulf after an Iranian naval convoy also turned back from the area, officials said Friday.
The carrier and the cruiser, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Normandy, had deployed to the region this week amid signs of a possible showdown with the Iranian flotilla. Washington suspected the convoy of carrying weapons destined for Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.
The Roosevelt and the Normandy are expected to re-enter the Gulf "very soon," a defense official told AFP.
Seven other American combat ships would remain in the Gulf of Aden and waters in the vicinity of Yemen, officials said.
The Iranian convoy, including cargo ships and two armed vessels, earlier turned back from Yemen and headed north off the coast of Oman, officials said, possibly to return to Iran.
"I think it's fair to say this appears to be a de-escalation of tensions that were discussed earlier this week," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.
Iran vehemently denies arming the Huthi rebels and has presented a peace plan to the UN calling for a ceasefire and the formation of a unity government.
US officials say the United States is not taking part in any blockade by Saudi-led forces aimed against Huthi rebels in Yemen.
The US naval ships were in the area to ensure shipping lanes remain open, officials said.
The American military is providing intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition and aerial refueling for its air strikes in Yemen.
After returning to the Gulf, the carrier Roosevelt — with its air wing of F-18 fighter jets — was due to resume its mission in the US-led air war against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.