Two Iranian ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope, appearing to be heading for the Atlantic Ocean and Venezuela, according to reports.
The move represents an important and aggressive step during a tense moment in US-Iran relations.
The two ships – an Iranian frigate and the Makran, an oil tanker that has been converted to a forward floating base – sailed south along Africa’s eastern coast and rounded the Cape of Good Hope on Friday.
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Satellite images of the ship in early May provided by Maxar Technologies show seven fast attack boats aboard the Makran deck, USNI reported.
The final destination is not certain, but sources say authorities believe the ships are heading to Venezuela: The reason for the trip remains a mystery, as is the cargo of the ships, according to Politico.
Some Biden officials said this week they feared the ships were carrying weapons, warning Tehran that the United States would act if it did.
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“The delivery of such weapons would be an act of provocation and a threat to our partners in this hemisphere,” read a statement released Wednesday evening by the Pentagon. “As such, we reserve the right to take appropriate measures – together with our partners – to deter the delivery or transit of such weapons.”
Iran and Venezuela have developed closer ties in recent years, with Iranian tankers having sailed to Venezuela several times in 2020 in an attempt to undermine US sanctions against the South American country.
U.S. officials have been keeping a close eye on the course of ships over the past two weeks, with a small window for ships to change course or return home.
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If ties between Iran and Venezuela continued to develop, it would provide Iran with the opportunity to establish itself as close as possible to the United States.
“It should come as no surprise that two of the world’s leading human rights abusers have grown even closer in recent months,” Bryan E. Leib, executive director of the activist group, warned in April. Iranians for Freedom based in New York. . “All US lawmakers should be deeply concerned about the growing ties between Tehran and Caracas.”
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“Their aggression cannot be left unchecked and this strengthening alliance affects all freedom-loving members of the free world,” Leib added.
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