Brazil allows Iranian ships to dock amid US concerns over Panama Canal
The Iranian Navy docks warships in Brazil in preparation for moving toward the Panama Canal as US worriedly scrambles for solution.
The United States is closely monitoring Iran's activity in the Panama Canal after Tehran said its navy would station vessels in the waterway earlier in January, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday.
Washington is monitoring "Iran's attempts to have a military presence in the Western Hemisphere," Price said.
This comes after documents published by the Brazilian Navy earlier in the week said that two Iranian warships, including one equipped with "anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, and naval cannons," were granted permission to dock in Brazil.
The commander of Iran's navy, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, said earlier in January that Iranian forces would establish a presence in the Panama Canal later this year, marking the first time Iran's military has reached the Pacific Ocean.
"We are aware of these claims by Iran’s navy," Price said. "We continue to monitor Iran's attempts to have a military presence in the Western Hemisphere." However, he declined to give insight regarding any potential actions that the Biden administration might take regarding the issue not Washington's stance on Iran's growing military influence in Latin America when asked to by the Washington Free Beacon.
An American national security analyst whose main focus is Latin American issues, Center for a Secure Free Society executive director Joseph Humire, said the Biden administration had an opportunity to sanction Iran's "networks" in Latin America.
"The Iranian warships ported in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are about one to two weeks away or more from entering the Canal Zone, giving the Biden administration time to leverage and enforce US sanctions," the expert said. "Integrated deterrence, which is the defense posture of the Biden administration, requires integration across the spectrum of conflict to prevent competitors from altering the status quo in ways that harm US vital interests.’"
The aforementioned Iranian vessels are expected to leave Brazil by the end of January. They will then head toward Venezuela before entering the Panama Canal on February 7.
This comes as Iran has been cementing ties with Latin American countries, most notably Venezuela, in recent years within the framework of the country's development roadmap.
Iranian ships have docked in Venezuela more regularly, as the two countries share a similar history of enduring excruciating sanctions by the US and its allies.
Iran frequently delivers fuel to Venezuela and often helps it sell its oil abroad as Iran possesses the necessary refineries to turn crude oil into high-value consumer products such as gas.
Humire previously argued that Iran had been planning for this type of voyage by holding joint exercises with allies such as Russia and China, both of which have been cementing their ties with Latin American countries.
"This is what Iran has been building in Latin America for the past 30 or 40 years" by establishing embassies and bilateral agreements with a host of nations, Humire added.
On this issue, Iranian Rear Admiral Irani commented by saying that the navy presence in the Panama Canal was meant to "strengthen our maritime presence in international waters," as per comments published by local media outlets. "Today we can say that there is no scientific barrier to grow in that field."
As Iran is planning on establishing a presence in the US backyard, the Islamic Republic is mulling taking steps to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, which often sees the United States scrapping with Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC).
Iran's parliament is considering a measure that would restrict European commercial movement through the shipping lane, Price told the Free Beacon.