US Navy and joint international forces stationed in Bab al-Mandab strait, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Gulf are playing a key role in maintaining regional stability, Yemeni researchers and experts tell Al-Mashareq.
"There is no doubt the US naval forces and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) [they are a part of] are playing an important role in the stability and security of the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab," said Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies director Abdulsalam Mohammed.
These forces have "contributed to regaining control of this vital region of the world from the hands of pirates, who have posed a threat to international trade", he told Al-Mashareq.
More recently, he said, they have been "able to restrain Iran and prevent the arrival of Iranian weapons to Yemen", through the capture and confiscation of arms shipments making their way to the Houthis (Ansarallah).
Joint forces in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab strait also have contributed to securing the oil corridors, Mohammed said.
They help maintain balance in the region, he said, via working with Arab coalition forces "to monitor the borders and the entry of Iranian weapons for the Houthis", which threaten the security of the Gulf states.
Support for allies in the region
"The presence of US naval forces near Saudi Arabia and their support for the Arab coalition countries is a good indicator of keeping the security of its allies in the region," Mohammed said.
In this supportive role, the US seeks to prevent any security challenges that could pose a threat to Saudi Arabia or the other Gulf countries, he added.
These challenges include the Houthis' recent firing of ballistic missiles towards Riyadh from Yemen, he said, and the shipment of Iranian arms to the Houthis.
Joint naval forces also help crack down on drug trafficking in regional waters. On December 30th, an Australian warship, which is part of the CMF naval partnership, seized almost eight tonnes of hashish and 69 kilogrammes of heroin during maritime security manoeuvres in the Arabian Sea.
In addition to their military presence, US naval forces in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf have played a humanitarian role in regional waters, Mohammed said, by intervening to rescue fishing vessels and other vessels in distress.
This has included boats carrying migrants making their way to Yemen from the Horn of Africa, he said.
Some migrants entering the country illegally use Yemen "as a transit station to Saudi territory, which could pose another threat", Mohammed noted.
Curbing piracy in regional waters
Joint forces and the US Navy play an important role in curbing piracy in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Gulf, said researcher Yaseen al-Tamimi.
"For 15 years, [the US and coalition forces] have been playing an important role in curbing piracy activity in the Gulf of Aden," he told Al-Mashareq.
This has been matched "by an equal determination to tackle terrorism", he said.
Challenges have emerged in the region that require the support of joint naval forces, the most dangerous of which is the smuggling of weapons to the Houthis, al-Tamimi added.
This activity "exacerbates and extends the crisis and war in Yemen", he said.
Meanwhile, "the humanitarian role being performed by these forces does not exclude even Iranian ships", said researcher and political analyst Adnan al-Hamiri.
US Navy forces in several cases have helped to rescue vessels and fishermen, including two Iranian vessels in November 2015 in the Gulf waters, when they received a distress call from the ships' crews, he told Al-Mashareq.
"The US Navy has supported the coast guard in Yemen and other countries of the region, which are performing a supporting role to the security and stability of the region," he added.