A top Iranian military commander says an Iranian naval fleet, including two ships, has entered the Atlantic Ocean, saying Iran is entitled under international law to have a naval presence in international waters.
In remarks on Thursday, Deputy Chief of Army for Coordination Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the two ships, including the Makran port ship and the domestically-built Sahand destroyer, have managed to reach the Atlantic Ocean without calling at other countries’ ports, marking the first time the Iranian navy has gotten this far into the Atlantic.
“We consider our presence in international waters an inalienable strategic right of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and we will continue on this path with strength,” Sayyari said.
He added that the fleet departed from the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf on May 10 and has so far sailed some 6,000 nautical miles, about 12,000 kilometers, going around the Cape of Good Hope during their thirty days of traveling in high seas.
The ships “are now in the Atlantic Ocean and continue their course to perform [the Iranian Navy’s] longest maritime mission toward the North Atlantic Ocean,” the rear admiral added.
The remarks came a day after American news website Politico reported that the Joe Biden administration is warning Venezuela and Cuba to turn away the two Iranian ships, citing unnamed US officials as saying that the ships may be carrying arms intended for transfer to Caracas.
“The delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and understood as a threat to our partners in the Western Hemisphere,” Politico quoted a senior official with the Biden administration as saying.
The source added that the US would reserve the right to take appropriate measures in coordination with its partners to deter the transit or delivery of what he claimed to be weapons.
The Iranian ships’ journey across the Atlantic has been described as a “significant step” for Iran’s navy, showing the Islamic Republic’s naval capabilities and the Iranian Navy’s increasing access to the Western Hemisphere.
“This powerful presence indicates the naval capability and strength of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Sayyari remarked.
“When we declared our intention to enter the Atlantic Ocean, some countries, including the global arrogance, stated that the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy was not capable of doing that, but in practice they saw that we did it with strength,” the former chief of the Iranian Navy added.
Earlier this month, Politico reported that the US national security community had been monitoring for the past two weeks two Iranian vessels whose ultimate destination might be Venezuela.
Citing three people familiar with the situation, the American news website said the vessels have been heading south along the east coast of Africa.
In response, Tehran said it has always been present in international waters and is entitled to such rights under international law.
“No country can violate this right,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.
Khatibzadeh warned the US against any miscalculation, saying, “Those who are sitting inside glass houses should be careful.”
While Tehran has not commented on the cargo of the ships, it has pointed out that there is no ban on Iran’s sale of weapons to other countries under UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
“Regardless of the cargo of the ships, there is no ban on Iran’s sale of weapons under Resolution, as confirmed by Resolution 2231,” adopted in 2015 by the UN Security Council to endorse the Iran nuclear deal, Ali Rabiei, the Iranian administration’s spokesman, said on Tuesday.
“America has long tried to get the resolution violated [by others], but to no avail,” Rabiei said at a weekly press conference.
He stressed that Tehran reserves the right to enjoy normal trade ties in the framework of international law and regulations, and considers any interference and monitoring of these relations illegal and insulting, and strongly condemns it.
The United States tried in vain last year to keep a 13-year-old arms embargo on Iran, which finally expired on October 18.