Iranian military leaders announced on Tuesday the country will send a fleet of warships into the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Gulf of Mexico, where the Islamic Republic aims to solidify ties with several Latin American states, according to the commander of Iran’s navy, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
Following orders from Iran’s supreme leader, the newly installed commander of its navy, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, announced a fleet of Iranian warships would soon be making their way into the Atlantic Ocean, despite what Iran claims is opposition by U.S. officials.
As Iran continues to deploy military assets to Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern hotspots, its navy is placing a renewed focus on displaying force in international waters, according to the military leaders.
The latest military displays follow a series of provocative moves by Tehran aimed at rattling U.S. officials in the Trump administration, which has increasingly sought to confront Iran’s regional intransigence. Any Iranian presence in the Atlantic Ocean is certain to put U.S. military leaders on the edge, according to experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
The Iranian war fleet “will berth in the friendly states in Latin America and the Gulf of Mexico in the near future by deployment in the Atlantic Ocean,” according to Iranian Navy Cmdr. Khanzadi. Iran intends to show greater force in international waters and is working to solidify ties with allies in Latin America, according to Khanzadi, who was quoted in Iran’s state-controlled press organs.
The effort to send warships to the Atlantic Ocean is meant to send a message to the Trump administration, the commander said.
“The Americans had somewhere said that the Iranians cannot sail 9,000 miles from Bandar Abbas to the Gulf of Mexico, given their capabilities, but we will certainly prove them this capability and will contact our friends [in Latin America]. We are not faced with any restriction for deploying in the seas, and anywhere we feel that we have interests to develop ties. We will certainly deploy there and we enjoy this power too,” Khanzadi was quoted as saying.
A State Department official declined to comment on Iran’s latest military announcement.
Khanzadi promised last week that his navy would “wave the flag of our country in the Gulf of Mexico,” NBC News reported. He said, “the appearance of our vessels in the Mediterranean and Suez Canal shocked the world and the U.S. also made comments on it.” While Iran’s naval forces pose no real threat when up against the U.S. Navy, Khanzadi said that new vessels and submarines will be introduced next year to bolster the fleet.
This isn’t the first time Iran’s military has said it would send its ships into the Gulf of Mexico. Khanzadi’s predecessor, Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, said in 2014 that Iran planned to send ships near the U.S. to counter the American presence in the Persian Gulf. Sayyari later said the sailings had been canceled “due to a change in schedule.”
The U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain across the Persian Gulf, where American and Iranian ships have clashed in recent years. Iranian-born Mideast commentator Meir Javedanfar said that despite the plans to sail into America’s backyard, “it’s not clear if Iran is actually going to do it.”
“Making an announcement is very different than actually being able to carry out such a big and sophisticated task of sending Iranian ships all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. And even if Iran succeeds I think it’s going to be mostly for show for domestic purposes. The Iranians have said that the Americans have no business being in the Persian Gulf and therefore maybe by doing this they are trying to reciprocate by saying that ‘just as you come to our backyard we can come to your backyard,” Javedanfar, a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.
The leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei insisted on Tuesday that the presence of the Iranian navy in international waters should continue unabated.
“The Navy is in the frontline of defending the country” and it is tasked to safeguard “important regions such as Makran, the Sea of Oman and the international waters and its presence in international waters should continue like before,” Khamenei said during a meeting with commanders and officials of the Army naval forces.
Ayatollah Khamenei also highlighted the necessity of boosting the navy’s capabilities.
“Today, the navy is more advanced and powerful than it was in 20 years ago, however, this level of progress is not enough and fast-paced movement should continue through will-power, high morale, creativity and action in all departments,” he said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the leader praised the performance of the Navy in the Persian Gulf in the early days of Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran in the 1980s.
“Courageous operation of the navy against the Ba’ath army on November 28, 1980, had a lasting effect on war and that courage, creativity, planning, and action reduced domination of enemy overseas to zero.”