After almost two months on the high seas, the advance in Atlantic waters of the Iranian warships Makran and Sahand, in what Tehran has described as the longest and most difficult of Iranian voyages, continues to mislead the international community.
And although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not given details about the destination of the vessels, the concern that they may go to Venezuela and carry weapons on board, once again gained strength in the United States Senate.
During the hearing on the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2022 at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was “absolutely concerned about the proliferation of weapons, any type of weapon, in our neighborhood.” after being questioned by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal about the cargo aboard the Iranian ships.
“It is believed that these vessels carry weapons to comply with an agreement that Iran and Venezuela made a year ago,” said the senator for the state of Connecticut seconds before.
On April 29, the frigate Sahand, escorted by the support ship Makran, set sail from the port of Bandar Abbas, in the south of the country, according to sources from the Iranian Navy. Despite Iran’s secrecy, satellite images provided by the . news agency a day earlier, showing the ship Makran loaded with half a dozen speedboats, would have aroused the indignation of senators.
The suspicions, as Blumenthal said during the hearing on the Defense budget, would be based on the statements that the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, made in August 2020.
“Godfather, what a good idea to talk with Iran and see what short, medium and long-range missiles, and if it is within our possibilities, given the great relations we have with Iran, to buy good missile batteries,” said the Venezuelan president on national television. .
Although the president of the United States has not spoken publicly on the matter, senior US officials assured the publication Politico that the Biden administration would be reserving the right to take timely measures in the event of a possible delivery of Iranian weapons to Venezuela.
According to the media, the United States would have warned through diplomatic channels the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, as well as the allied economies of the region, to reject the Persian ships.
“Whatever those appropriate measures are, it remains to be seen. But they could include stopping the ships, boarding the ships, inspecting the ships. I don’t know if they would ever come to that because so far diplomatic measures have been effective, “said Steven Groves, a former White House deputy press secretary during the Trump administration in an interview with the Voice of America.
However, according to defense experts, the United States would have before it a limited range of possibilities beyond convincing its adversaries by the good, if Iran decided to consummate its challenge in Caribbean waters.
According to former Deputy Secretary of Defense for Ronald Reagan, Lawrence Korb, “it is not illegal for Venezuela to buy weapons from another country, and if they hand them over, there is nothing legal we can do, just as no one could stop us from selling weapons, for example, or deliver them to Saudi Arabia ”.
According to Korb, who is also an analyst at the Center for American Progress, Iran is trying to send a signal. “This trip seems to take too long. In other words, if they wanted to do it quickly, it could have already been done, but they have chosen to try to see what happens, to see how we react, ”he told the Voice of America.
Although, and according to Iranian public television, on June 10 the Sahand and the Makran set sail for the Atlantic, after successfully skirting the Cape of Good Hope, days later, the TankerTrackers ship tracking service, assured that Iranian ships would be sailing towards the coast of Africa heading to another destination. An extreme that has not been confirmed or denied by Tehran.
“The purpose of these trips is often described as showing the flag, training new cadets, in long-range navigation. I think it will set a precedent and, in the future, we may see more attempts by the Iranian Navy to use these two ships that are designed and recruited for long-range missions, “said Farzin Nadimi, an analyst at Washington. Institute.
At the end of this report, the Islamic Republic of Iran still did not disclose the final destination of its ships. For its part, the Voice of America contacted the State Department about the possibility that the Makran and Sahand ships were heading to Venezuela, but received no response.