The Biden administration urged the Venezuelan and Cuban governments to deport two Iranian navy ships believed to be carrying weapons intended to be transferred to Caracas, according to senior US sources. Iranian ships continue to sail across the Atlantic this week, according to three people briefed on the case.
Transferring weapons from Iranian ships to Venezuela or Cuba would be a provocative move in direct defiance of US warnings. The mere completion of a transatlantic voyage would also be an important step for the Iranian Navy and demonstrate unprecedented capabilities after failed attempts in the past.
Two defense officials and a congressional official, each speaking on condition of anonymity, said the White House He pressures Caracas and Havana through diplomatic channels not to allow ships to dock in their countries The congressional official said Biden officials are proactively communicating with other governments in the region to ensure that they will reject Iranian ships.
Meanwhile, Caracas is trying to take advantage of the situation to ease US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, according to two people. Familiar with the situation. US mediators have told Venezuelan officials that allowing ships to dock there will reduce the likelihood that the United States will ease sanctions on the country. Defensive.
The US national security community is concerned about the possible transfer of weapons from Tehran to Caracas. The intelligence community has evidence that one of the ships, carrying fast attack boats, is likely to be for sale to Venezuela, according to a second defense official and another person familiar with the intelligence on the ships. In early May, Maxar Technologies provided seven such boats aboard, but it was not clear if these boats were still on board when the ship began its voyage. There is no evidence that the Makran ship carries ballistic missiles.
The Trump administration last year warned Tehran against delivering shipments of long-range missiles to the Nicolas Maduro regime, and threatened to destroy the weapons if they ended up in Venezuela.
“The transfer of long-range missiles from Iran to Venezuela is unacceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated or permitted,” Elliott Abrams, the former State Department special representative for Iran and Venezuela, said at the time.
Last week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby warned that the delivery of new weapons “would be a provocative and threatening act to our partners in this hemisphere.” He added that the United States reserves the right to “take appropriate measures – in coordination with our partners – to deter the delivery or transfer of such weapons.”
As of Wednesday morning, the ships had completed more than half the voyage from Iran to Venezuela and were sailing slowly to the northwest, more than 1,000 miles from Cape Town, South Africa, according to a defense official.
This is the first time the Iranian navy has made it so far across the Atlantic.
Lawmakers who receive regular briefings on the matter have been publicly pressing the Biden administration to act to deter the ships.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter: “It doesn’t look like this.” Delivery of a shipment of oil or fuel. “This bears all the signs of selling weapons like fast attack boats to Venezuela along with an opportunity to deliver a message of strength to the Biden administration.”