The Pentagon and US intelligence agencies are closely tracking two Iranian ships that Tehran claims are bound for Venezuela.
At the Pentagon and other agencies, officials said that at the moment the ships’ passage is not a concern, but they are being monitored and the intelligence community is working to assess what Iran’s intentions are. The two countries — both the subject of harsh US sanctions — are allies and trading partners that have helped each other withstand the American measures.
While it is still unclear if the ships are carrying any weapons, according to multiple US officials, satellite imagery reveals one of them is carrying the kind of small, fast-attack boats that Iran has used to harass US naval ships in the Persian Gulf. And if Iranian vessels gain the ability to access the Atlantic, analysts say it would be a significant step forward for the country’s navy, which has tried and failed to do so in the past.
Officials said the US has been monitoring the ships for approximately two weeks. The vessels have been off the east coast of Africa for the past several days. While they were initially expected to round the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the continent around June 9 to June 11, experts tracking their movement say that now they are not expected to arrive until July.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, speaking generally about the possibility of any shipment of Iranian weapons to the Western Hemisphere, said that would be a “provocative act” and a threat to US allies.
“While DoD will not comment on intelligence matters, we would note that the delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and a threat to our partners in this hemisphere. As such we would reserve the right to take appropriate measures — in concert with our partners — to deter the delivery or transit of such weapons,” Kirby said in a statement to CNN.
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