Two Iranian naval vessels could be heading to Venezuela, carrying out a mysterious mission, The US national security establishment has understood.
The vessels are an Iranian frigate and an oil tanker converted to a floating forward staging base, the security officials have said, Politico reported. The frigate and the other vessel, named Makran, are moving towards the east coast of Africa, the anonymous sources said.
Iran-US Ties at Lowest Point
Neither the final destination of the mission nor the intent are known to the US security experts but doubts have been in the air. The move has raises suspicions at a time when the US-Iranian relations are at the lowest point in recent times.
Iran and Venezuela, both arch-foes of the US, have cultivated strong times in the recent years. However, geopolitical observers are closely monitoring if Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would go as far as to welcome the Iranian vessels, angering the United States.
Even if the ships do not reach the Venezuelan shores, their mere presence in the American sphere of influence has irked and unsettled the US.
Iran's Threat of Retaliation
The Biden administration's openness to re-start nuclear negotiations with Iran will attract more criticism if the situation in the seas escalates.
Iran has over the years, objected to the presence of US warships in the Persian Gulf and have said it would retaliate with similar deployment in the western hemisphere.
According to the Iranian media reports, Makran can serve as a platform for electronic warfare and special operations missions. The reports also said the ship is capable of launching missiles and weapons. They can also carry as many as seven helicopters and drones.
The US-Iran relations worsened further in the beginning of 2020 when the US killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Iran retaliated by launching missiles into the US military base in Iraq, leaving dozens of US soldiers with minor injuries.
The faceoff continued with Iran-backed militia firing rockets into military bases in Iraq that houses US soldiers on multiple occasions. Iran also executed several people it alleges to be the US spies. The US, along with Israel, was put in the dock in Iran over the killing Mohsen Fakhrizadhe, the architect of Iran's military nuclear programme, last year.
In the face of strident Iranian threats of retaliation, the US moved battleships close to the Iranian shore, signaling unprecedented escalation in the Persian Gulf security situation. The strike group is led by the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and is joined by guided-missile destroyers.
Earlier this month, US Navy's Coast Guard vessels fired warning shots at Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) boats in the Strait of Hormuz. The US ships fired the shots at the IRGC boats after they closed in on the US vessels that were escorting guided missile submarine USS Georgia.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Iranian boats came in on the US ships at high speed and were just about 137 metres away from the US formation when the shots were fired.