So… how are those negotiations with the Iranians going? I know, I know… some of you get a little uncomfortable with them when various members of their leadership send mixed or ambiguous messages, such as Death to America. (And really, who can say what they mean by that? It’s not like you speak Persian.) Since they are still engaging in ongoing talks which involve concessions in their nuclear weapons, err… power program, we should make the effort to give them at least partial benefit of the doubt. That’s why you likely shouldn’t get too worked up over the latest news.

U.S. military officials are concerned that Iran’s support for Houthi rebels in Yemen could spark a confrontation with Saudi Arabia and plunge the region into sectarian war. Iran is sending an armada of seven to nine ships — some with weapons — toward Yemen in a potential attempt to resupply the Shia Houthi rebels, according to two U.S. defense officials.

Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown with the U.S. or other members of a Saudi-led coalition, which is enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen and is conducting its fourth week of airstrikes against the Houthis.

One analyst remarked that the surprising aspect of this move is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it. Rather, it appears to be an attempt to “communicate it” to the United States. But how much could the Iranians really hide here and, more to the point, why would they bother? Is there anyone who doesn’t already know that Iran has been supporting terrorist groups and unrest in the region, particularly when the interests of Shia forces are in play.

This report is almost a year old, but provides a fairly good breakdown of the divide between Iran and their more Sunni friendly neighbors.

Their shared demographic makeup may help explain Iran’s support for Iraq’s Shia-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Iran also has supported Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, where only 15-20% of the Muslim population was Shia as of 2009. But the Syrian leadership is dominated by Alawites (an offshoot of Shia Islam). Under Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, which was dominated by Sunnis, the country clashed with Iran.

The Sunni-Shia divide is nearly 1,400 years old, dating back to a dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632.

So, with all of that as context, what do you suppose Iran is doing by sending a convoy of ships to the region off Yemen? They clearly don’t appear to be very worried about any consequences which may come from ticking off our allies in Saudi Arabia. But then… how good of a bunch of allies are the Saudis anyway?