Two Iranian warships that may be headed to Venezuela have been spotted by the U.S. national security community, which is now monitoring their progress, Politico reported Saturday.
The frigate and modified oil tanker have been spotted heading south along the east coast of Africa, sources told Politico.
If the ships do proceed to Venezuela, it would constitute a provocation of the U.S. at a time when tensions are high.
Iran has been a supporter of Venezuela in recent years, and both countries are under severe sanctions from the U.S. because of human rights abuses and other reasons. The countries have worked together on car and cement factory projects as well as gasoline shipments, Politico notes.
With such crippling sanctions, it is a wonder the two countries have even had the ability to help each other, with Iran providing oil and Venezuela providing cash.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been warned not to welcome the apparently incoming ships, but it was not clear whether he will heed the warning.
The U.S. was told that the ships had turned around on Thursday, but the monitoring showed that they were still traveling south as of Friday morning, Politico said.
Claims by Iran’s media say that the ship called the Makran, commissioned only this year, may have missile and weapons capabilities, can carry up to seven helicopters as well as drones, and may be a platform for electronic weapons and special missions operations.
Just the presence of the ships so close to the U.S. constitutes a challenge to U.S. authority and could impact President Joe Biden’s decision to negotiate with Tehran regarding the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, reports note.
Some of the tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been due to its historic actions against Israel, a longtime U.S. ally. The recent attacks on Israel by Hamas may be connected to Iran, which provides material and financial support to Hamas.
The Pentagon has also reportedly said that Iran’s growing military presence in Iraq is “alarming,” and the Trump administration designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization in 2019, Politico reported Saturday.
The U.S. seized four cargo ships going from Iran to Venezuela last year, and reports said that the ships were accompanied by an Iran naval intelligence ship. None of the ships reached Venezuela, however.