Iran’s Latest Challenge to the United States: Warships in the Gulf of Mexico

Caracas and Tehran, Maduro and Rouhani, socialism and Shiite Islam, the Middle East and Latin America: A few decades ago, it would have been inconceivable, almost absurd, that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Venezuela could have converging political interests. But the dynamics of the globalization and geopolitical transition we are witnessing have long shown that alliances or converging interests can come together in quite unexpected ways—especially when there is a common enemy. And most especially if this common enemy is the United States, which tends to control (in completely different ways) Iran in the Middle East and Venezuela in South America. A common enemy is always the most valid reason for an alliance and Washington is certainly no exception. Therefore, it should be no surprise that two such different countries would decide to tighten their relationship for the common goal of shaking up the superpower USA, especially in their backyard, i.e. the American mainland. A few days ago, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat commended Iran’s policies during a meeting in Caracas with the Iranian ambassador. This confirms Venezuela’s will to support Tehran’s choices in the Middle East. This time, the move came directly from Tehran and involved South America. This week the new commander of the Iranian navy, Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, affirmed in a press conference that some Iranian warships will set sail toward the Atlantic, in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico. Once they reach Caribbean waters, the fleet will begin its official tour of South America. There will most likely be a stop in Venezuela’s ports, which, among other things, was recently authorized to host the Russian Federation’s fleets after an agreement was signed between Moscow and Caracas.

News of the Iranian fleet’s arrival in the Gulf of Mexico clearly has the flavor of a political and media response to the latest tensions regarding Iran, especially in the Persian Gulf. The sea that separates Iran from the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula is one of the most fraught bodies of water in the world. Close encounters between the U.S. and Iranian navies are frequent. The U.S. has bases in Bahrain, Oman, the Emirates and Kuwait, and Iran patrols its own territorial waters. Control of the Strait of Hormuz, gas fields and Iraq-bound sea traffic are important issues of strategic interest to Tehran and Washington. Increased tensions in these waters during the heightening of political tension between the two countries, or between Iran and U.S. allies, are inevitable. The Iranian navy’s move toward the Atlantic, therefore, almost seems like a distraction to shift attention away from its borders or from a real challenge against the United States. Crossing the Atlantic threshold and arriving directly in the Gulf of Mexico would send a very clear message to the White House regarding the Iranian navy’s mobility, and also that Tehran’s political and strategic network of interests can extend even to Latin America.

Aside from this information, which is important in itself, Admiral Khanzadi gave other interesting indications about developing the navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The first is the launch of a development program for military equipment intended for activity in international waters. The second piece of news is that Iran is about to finish a fleet-renewal process starting with the launch of new submarines and ships. The admiral has, furthermore, confirmed the expansion of the fleet in the Caspian Sea with the arrival of a new missile corvette, showing interest in a sea very often forgotten, though at the center of numerous economic and military containments. Finally, Khanzadi added that the navy is about to dedicate the airport in the southeast city of Jask, across from the coast of Oman. It is already the site of an important naval base.

One must admit that all these signals are certainly not peaceful, but are weaving into a spectacle of growing tensions in which the United States is becoming the glue holding two ends of the world together. As North Korea’s foreign minister made an official visit to Cuba last week, next we will see Iranian ships arrive in Venezuela and all over South America. These are geopolitical consequences that the USA will certainly have foreseen, with the increased tensions in every corner of the globe, but that are at risk of bringing the world down a dead-end street.

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