May 31, 2021
The United States is monitoring the movement of two Iranian naval vessels near Africa that may be heading to Venezuela, Politico reported May 29, citing three people with knowledge of the situation.
If Iran dispatches the vessels to the Western hemisphere, it will be seen as a provocative move while diplomats in Vienna are trying to hammer out an agreement between Washington and Tehran for a return to the Obama-era nuclear agreement that Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.
The report says that an Iranian frigate and the Makran, an oil tanker converted to a floating forward staging base have been heading south along the east coast of Africa, with Venezuela being their possible destination.
Iran has been sending oil tankers and cargo ships to Venezuela, its ally in the Western hemisphere, with the US confiscating some of the fuel on the grounds of sanctions violations and selling the cargo.
But sending warships might pose a more direct challenge to the US position in its backyard. Sources told Politico that “Senior officials in President Nicolás Maduro’s government in Caracas have been advised that welcoming the Iranian warships would be a mistake”.
Such a move will also lead to more criticism of the Biden Administration that has decided to return to the Iran nuclear deal, JCPOA. Republicans have said that the move will end up lifting sanctions and providing a financial lifeline to the beleaguered Iranian economy at a time when Tehran is arming militant groups in the region and taking credit for Hamas’s latest firing of more than 3,000 rockets at Israeli targets, mostly civilian.