Two Iranian navy ships heading to the Americas are expected to soon enter the Atlantic Ocean, posing an alleged problem for the Biden Administration, according to a report by Politico on June 2nd.
Days earlier, the outlet reported that the US was surveilling the Makran, an oil tanker turned staging base, and an Iranian navy frigate believed to be headed for Venezuela.
H.I. Sutton and others reported that based on satellite imagery, the Makran has seven high-speed missile-attack craft strapped to its deck.
According to imagery provided to USNI News by Maxar, the Iranian Navy’s new forward-basing ship, IRINS Makran, was seen on April 28 after leaving its homeport with seven attack boats aboard.
“[Mistry spokesman] Saeed Khatibzadeh emphasized Iran’s legal right to go through all international seas,” according to a summary of a Monday press conference from the state-controlled Iran Press News Agency.
Khatibzadeh also warned the U.S. officials about any actions against Iranian ships.
Those boats seen in the satellite images match the characteristics of the Peykaap family of medium-sized fast attack craft (FAC) operated by the sectarian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN).
“The seven missile craft aboard Makran are each approximately 57 feet (17.5 meters) long and match the Peykaap family of medium-sized fast attack craft operated by Iran. There are several variations of these craft in Iranian service, although all are generally similar. The latest Peykaap-II type (also known as the Bavar class) is 57 feet long and can carry two anti-ship missiles and two 12.75 inch torpedoes. The missiles could be of the Kowsar or Nasr types, which are derived from Chinese models with a quite modest range of around 18 nautical miles.”
There has been concern that Venezuela may attempt to acquire ballistic missile technology from Iran. Some areas of the deck are now covered, so it has not been possible to assess the full cargo of the ship.
In March, U.S. Southern Command commander Adm. Craig Faller warned the Senate that the two countries have continued to expand cooperation to trade military resources.
“In the past year, Iran has expanded economic and security cooperation with Venezuela on fuel transfers, food staples, and military assistance, possibly expanding the Quds Force’s presence in the region,” Faller said in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Tehran also relies on a system of Iranian state-sponsored and non-state facilitated media outlets to shape the information domain to generate empathy for Iran and Shia Islam and diminish Western influence in the hemisphere.”
CNN cited unnamed US officials who said that the Iranian ships were sailing in a confusing manner, and it was not exactly clear what was being done.
As the US tries to gauge Iran’s intentions, two sources say one working theory is that Iran is trying to tout its ability to operate in the Atlantic — a “hey, we are here and present” statement.
“This is not a Navy designed for blue water operations,” one of the defense officials said. The US military generally refers to “blue water” navies as those that can readily operate in open ocean at great distances from their home nations and support operations for extended periods.
The potential journey into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean would mark a step forward for Iran’s Navy, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, who watches the Iranian military for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank.
“If this trip is successful … it doesn’t mean Iran will have a blue water navy right away, but it could represent a significant evolution in Iran’s conventional Navy, which has atrophied compared to the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps,” he said. Iranian officials have touted the Makran as an expeditionary forward base, a platform from which they could launch suicide drones, helicopters, attack craft and the like, Taleblu said.
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