By Mustafa Melih Ahsali
Iran on Thursday dispatched two warships to the Gulf of Aden, where for the last week fighting has raged between the Yemeni army and Houthi rebels over Yemen’s Al-Hudaydah province.
According to Iran's semi-official Tasnim News Agency, Iran has sent both a helicopter-carrier and a naval destroyer to the region.
A highly strategic waterway, the Gulf of Aden links the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea.
On Tuesday, Yemeni government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition captured Al-Hudaydah’s international airport following clashes with Houthi rebels.
Yemen’s internationally-recognized government (currently based in the port city of Aden) and its allies accuse the Houthis of using Al-Hudaydah to smuggle weapons into the country from Iran.
Impoverished Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies -- who accuse the Houthis of serving as proxies for Shia Iran -- launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.
The following year, UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait failed to end the destructive conflict.
The violence has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation as “one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times”.