President Barack Obama authorized logistical and intelligence support late Wednesday for a coalition led by Saudi Arabia as it began to launch airstrikes over Yemen.

In a statement Wednesday night, a White House official says the U.S. is coordinating military and intelligence support with Saudi Arabia. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan says the U.S. isn't taking direct military action in Yemen but did consult with the Saudis.

The Saudi government says that nine other countries have joined its coalition as it begins strikes targeting Shiite Houthi rebels that have advanced on the southern port of Aden, reportedly forcing the country's president to flee by boat.

The advance of the Houthi militias, who are backed by Iran, brought a strong response from Republican members of Congress who tied the chaos in Yemen to ongoing negotiations over the fate of Iran's nuclear program.

"Months of fairy tale negotiations and appeasement by this administration have led Iran to believe that it can act with impunity on an international scale," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. "Now, more than ever, it is clear that any real settlement with Iran is impossible, and the president must acknowledge this fact. The continued easement or outright removal of sanctions against this rogue state will only further embolden Iran and facilitate its belligerent behavior."

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    "A country that President Obama recently praised as a model for U.S. counterterrorism has now become a sectarian conflict and a regional proxy war that threatens to engulf the Middle East," read a joint statement by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. "What's worse, while our Arab partners conduct air strikes to halt the offensive of Iranian proxies in Yemen, the United States is conducting air strikes to support the offensive of Iranian proxies in Tikrit [Iraq]. This is as bizarre as it is misguided - another tragic case of leading from behind."

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.