Is America Going To War In Yemen? Here's Actually What's Going On

If one thing's been laid bare by nearly 14 years of post-9/11 American geopolitics, it's that no military involvement or engagement ever goes quite as smoothly as we might like. That, and the tricky phenomenon of "mission creep" — when an initially specific, isolated objective spins into something altogether bigger, ensnaring countries in potentially costly long-term commitments. As such, whenever you hear about military resources being deployed in a foreign land, the warning bells might go off in your head — wait, is the United States going to war in Yemen?

Well, you can rest assured on this one: no, the U.S. isn't going to war in Yemen. At the very least, that's not what's suggested by Monday's news.

Here's what happening: the U.S. is sending over several Navy vessels into Yemeni waters, intending to monitor Iranian ships in the region that are suspected of arms trafficking. Specifically, they're concerned with Iran shipping arms into Yemen to support the Houthi rebel movement, which has seized control of significant portions of the Middle Eastern state. The extent of this monitoring can only go so far however — the U.S. warships "do not have authority to forcibly board," according to CNN.

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This is all fair cause for concern, no doubt. Yemen is enduring a lot right now. Between the Houthis, the Saudi airstrikes targeting them, a record of human rights abuses and an economy and health care infrastructure on the verge of outright collapse, it's understandable why Yemen is the subject of so much international focus. Moreover, even though Monday's news wasn't evidence that the U.S. is going to war in Yemen, it's not as though that's a foreign concept. In fact, many observers have concluded that the U.S. has effectively been waging a secret war within Yemen for years, facilitated through the use of its controversial drone program.

This latest news will invariably heighten tensions, as well, and it's awkward for a whole lot of reasons, the ongoing U.S./Iranian nuclear deal effort chiefly among them. The U.S. had also reportedly been trying to convince Saudi Arabia to ease off on their airstrikes for days, pleas that proved unsuccessful, and on Tuesday news broke that King Salman had ordered the National Guard into the conflict. In other words, things aren't exactly deescalating right now. But that's not a sign that the U.S. is aiming to start a fresh war in Yemen — quite the contrary, the Obama administration is probably as desperate as anything for things to cool down.

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