Two Iranian war ships believed to to have been carrying weapons and heading to Venezuela have changed course and are probably travelling to Syria instead, according to the latest reports.
The vessels, a frigate and an oil tanker converted to a floating forward staging base, are now moving up the African coast and could be headed to either the Mediterranean or Syria, the Politico said, citing tracking specialists.
A week earlier, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had expressed concerns over the trajectory of the vessels. The US authorities were concerned that the Iranian vessels -- frigate Sahand and afloat staging base Makran -- could have been on a mission to conduct an arms transfer in Venezuela.
It now appears that diplomatic pressure has been successful in diverting the warships' path. Iran and Venezuela, both arch-foes of the US, have cultivated strong times in the recent years. Geopolitical observers were keen to see if Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would go as far as to welcome the Iranian vessels, angering the United States.
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.
The report says that the US government had mounted pressure on Venezuela and Cuba to turn the ships away, as the US knew that allowing such a clandestine mission would compromise its security apparatus in the western hemisphere.
The US believed the Iranian ships carried fast-attack boats and other weapons that were part of an arms deal Tehran and Caracas signed a year ago.
There were also reports last year that Venezuela was planning to buy long-range missiles that could potentially hit the US, from Iran.
"The delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and understood as a threat to our partners in the Western Hemisphere ... We would reserve the right to take appropriate measures in coordination with our partners to deter the transit or delivery of such weapons," a senior administration official told the outlet.
Meanwhile, TankerTrackers.com, which analyses the movement of vessels, said the Iranian ships could be travelling to Syria where they are likely to take part in naval exercises alongside Russia.