Iranian warships sailing in the Atlantic will be a major test for the Biden administration, which has tried to re-engage Tehran in negotiations over its nuclear program. Iran had previously threatened to send warships into the Atlantic, but it never followed through and complied with a distress call in a South African port in 2016.
Tehran’s intention to send ships to the Atlantic is not clear. But a spokesman for the National Security Council noted that Venezuela had purchased weapons from Iran more than a year ago, warning that new arms shipments would be “a provocative and threatening act for our partners in this hemisphere.”
“We reserve the right to take appropriate measures – in consultation with our partners – to prevent the supply or transfer of such weapons,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.
The Iranian ships include the former Makran frigate and an oil tanker that officials say has been converted into a floating forward launch site.
Tehran and Caracas previously worked together to challenge the United States and advance the goals of the two governments. Iran has in the past sent oil tankers to dock in Venezuela in defiance of US sanctions.
Tehran plans to deepen its presence in Latin America and the Western Hemisphere in general. “Venezuela is providing Tehran with an advanced base of operations in the region,” said Behnam bin Taleblu, an expert on Iran at Hawks in Defense of Democracies, whose scholars often advocate tough US policies aimed at undermining Iran and the Islamic regime. Taleblu pointed out that the Makran movement in particular raised eyebrows.
Senior officials in Tehran tacitly confirmed the movement of the ships. In response to Politico’s reports, Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Monday warned US officials to avoid miscalculation about Iranian warships sailing in international waters.
“Iran is always present in international waters and has this right under international law and can be present in international waters,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in Tehran.
“No country can violate this right,” he said. “Those who have been in greenhouses should be careful.”
Over the past few days, US officials said, the ships took turns stopping and signaling that they might turn. But since Friday, they’ve made significant progress along the southern coast.
One person said the Biden administration briefed lawmakers on the ships’ progress on Tuesday.
After Politico first reported the movements of the ships, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla), deputy chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested that the United States not reach the ships in Venezuela.
“There are only two reasons why an Iranian warship would travel half a world to reach a port in Venezuela,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. To deliver the military goods they sold to them. The United States is testing by conducting joint exercises with them. We must not let this happen.”
However, a US defense official said there are currently no plans to send US naval ships to monitor or deter the Iranian task force. US Southern Command typically operates two coastal battleships in the South and Central American region.
The tonnage of the ships is also unknown. However, satellite images of Makran, taken by Maxar Technologies in April and May and shared with POLITICO, show the ship leaving a port in Iran in April with seven fast attack ships on board. The images were first reported by USNI News. Another photo, taken in May, shows Makran, north of Lark Island in the Strait of Hormuz, with boats on board.
The boats seen in the photos are consistent with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ fast attack boat, which regularly patrols the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. This type of boat has been used in recent months to harass American ships operating in international waters.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to comment on the ship’s movement on Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t anticipate what the Iranian navy might and might not do,” Kirby said. But he noted that Admiral Craig Faller, commander of US Southern Command, “has the capabilities at his disposal to protect our interests and fulfill our obligations in this part of the world.”
Noting that Iranian shipping movements have posed geopolitical challenges in the past, Taleblu urged the Biden administration to closely monitor the latest developments.
It is said that Iranian and Venezuelan actors can be subject to sanctions [bartered] “Aviation fuel is for gasoline in the past and can be used for trade in tankers or port visits for other purposes,” he wrote in an email. “As the Biden team seeks to lift sanctions on Iran, it is becoming increasingly difficult to locate the United States in such activities, and this is a major problem.”
A large Iranian naval ship sank, Wednesday, after it caught fire, while a massive fire broke out in an oil refinery serving the Iranian capital.
While the exact cause of the fires is not yet clear, many Iranian infrastructure and military assets have been damaged in the past by explosions and fires that analysts suspect were made by Israel, which considers Iran a major adversary and is trying to harm it. Country. nuclear programme.
Kharg fell in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian media quoted a navy spokesman as saying that a 20-hour battle to control the fire had taken place, but to no avail.
He added that the fire broke out in the engine room of the semi-official Iranian ship, Fars News Agency, according to what the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying. Media reported that the ship had been in service for 40 years and was used for logistical and training purposes.
The fire hit the oil refinery of the state-owned Tondgoyan Petrochemical Company, south of Tehran. The Associated Press reported: It created huge plumes of black smoke.
Nahal Tosi and Betsy Woodruff Swan contributed to this report.
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