The U.S. navy is monitoring two Iranian naval vessels that are presumed to be heading to Venezuela, a provocative move that comes amidst American and Iranian negotiations over reentering the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Makran, a former oil tanker that had been converted to a floating base and an Iranian frigate, has been observed heading south towards the West, Politico reported. The ships are believed to be heading to Venezuela.
The South American country and Iran have cultivated close ties recently, as both countries under American sanctions have been cooperating on oil shipments and factory projects. Venezuela has been supplying Iran with cash and a foothold in South America in exchange for Iranian oil.
The top commander of U.S. troops in Central and South America has warned that Iran’s growing military presence in Venezuela, including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, is “alarming.”
The Makran is capable of electronic warfare and carrying missiles, drones and weapons, according to Iranian state media.
The potential presence of armed Iranian ship near the U.S. is likely to exacerbate the political questions over how and if the Biden administration will continue its negotiations with Iran. The Biden administration has been trying to renegotiate a framework for a nuclear agreement. Former President Barack Obama signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in 2015, and former President Donald Trump left the agreement in 2018, prompting Iran to publicly break several conditions, including uranium enrichment.