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Iran’s Navy Isn’t Sending Warships and Weapons to America’s Backyard After All

Iran Navy Venezuela
Image: Creative Commons.

Two Iranian Navy vessels that were originally believed to be heading towards Venezuela changed course earlier this week and were steaming north up the west coast of Africa. The U.S. government had alleged that the vessels had been preparing to conduct an arms transfer to the South American nation.

Last week U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had told lawmakers he was “concerned” that the ships were carrying weapons bound for Venezuela, while satellite images of the Iranian vessels showed at least fast attack boats on the deck. Those small craft could be armed with a variety of weapons including small arms, anti-ship missiles, and even torpedoes, and that could give the Venezuelan Navy the ability to conduct swarming operations against rival military or even commercial shipping in the Caribbean Sea.

“I am absolutely concerned about the proliferation of weapons, any type of weapons, in our neighborhood,” Secretary of State Lloyd Austin told members of the Senate Armed Service Committee earlier this month.

Change of Course?

It isn’t clear if the ships changed course based on U.S. protests, but according to a report from Politico, Washington’s diplomatic campaign to urge governments in the Western Hemisphere to turn away the ships was apparently successful. The Iranian frigate Sahand and afloat staging base Makran have now charted a new course after Biden administration officials publicly and privately urged the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and other countries in the region not to allow them to dock.

“The delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and understood as a threat to our partners in the Western Hemisphere,” a senior administration official told Politico. “We would reserve the right to take appropriate measures in coordination with our partners to deter the transit or delivery of such weapons.”

It is now likely they could be headed to the Mediterranean and potentially Syria; or northward to Russia. posted to social media that it was believed the warships could be headed to Syria to take part in military exercises with Russia. The vessel’s progress has been slow going and weren’t expected to reach Gibraltar until at least July 4.

Regardless of where the ships eventually end up, it would be a notable voyage for Tehran. Iran’s deputy army chief Admiral Habibollah Sayyari previously described the progress on state TV as the Iranian Navy’s longest and most challenging voyage yet.

“The Navy is improving its seafaring capacity and proving its long-term durability in unfavorable seas and the Atlantic’s unfavorable weather conditions,” Sayyari stated and added that the warships would not call at any country’s port during the mission.

This is not the first time that Iran has been suspected of attempting to conduct an arms sale to Venezuela, and last year Tehran was accused of selling long-range missile missiles – in violation of U.S. sanctions. It has also been reported that the cash-strapped government in Caracas has already paid for this current cargo, so whether the Islamic Republic will issue a refund is the outstanding question of the day.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Chad Dust

    June 21, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    My impression, gleaned from a brief, passing remark in an article appearing at Yahoo, is that Washington suggested it would reduce some trade and oil sanctions against Teheran and Caracas, if under these extreme circumstances they would restrain themselves from visiting the Caribbean near Venezuela, in seven gun boats. Because that had been in the cards. For “prophets of doom”, like myself, that obvious gesture refuted my own speculation about what was due. Yet if true, would be a very intelligent tactic to deflate an approaching crisis, and should become a strategy. That strategy should be applied again, since the emergency is not over. Instead of ‘sailing’ to the Caribbean and Venezuela, the Sahand destroyer and Makran supply vessel seem to be heading into the Mediterranean, which is no less risky and where there has been even less military restraint, about mining and burning up commercial ships and ships of state. These incidents have included sinking the largest ship in the Iranian navy and, recently, mining a floating military base in the Red Sea. Now today, there’s a Destroyer, the Sahand, and another floating base carrying at least seven fast attack boats. Will the ships and cargo be sailing back into the Atlantic around West Africa and the East Africa, across the Arab Sea to the Persian Gulf, or will they going the shorter way through the Suez Canal near the Eastern Mediterranean, past the Israelis who have several times shot first after asking questions. Or maybe the Sahand and Makran will travel through the Bosporus to the Black Sea for maneuvers with the Russians. The point being that this remains a risky crisis. There’s no reason for further naval sniping, sabotage and provocations except to trigger conflict The Biden administration and others should apply the same restraint already exhibited and obviously favored by most parties in the Caribbean.

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