If the commander of the Iranian navy has his way, people in Florida and Texas may soon be greeted by the chilling sight of Iranian warships off their coasts.
Last week, in his first official press conference as commander of Iran’s navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency as saying that he plans to deploy ships to the Gulf of Mexico.
“Our fleet of warships will be sent to the Atlantic Ocean in the near future and will visit one of the friendly states in South America and the Gulf of Mexico,” Khanzadi said. Iran has several allies in South and Central America, most notably Venezuela, which is not an ally of the U.S.
At the same time, he announced plans to upgrade the Iranian fleet using advanced technology to improve and add to their submarines, surface vessels, and helicopters. Khandazi said that the Peykan-class missile-launching corvette Separ (“shield”) would join the country’s Caspian Fleet this week.
This has long been a goal of the Iranian military. Earlier in the month, the outgoing Iranian Naval Commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, stated explicitly that the Iranian Navy was expanding its field of operations.
“The Iranian Navy which was once only active in the Persian Gulf is today able to experience five months of voyage and is no longer content with reaching the 10-degree latitude,” Sayyari told the Iran Project. We believe that our goal should now be navigating in the free waters between Europe and the US, and this will come true in the near future.”
In 2014, Iran threatened to send its fleet to the Gulf of Mexico in response to the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is based across the Persian Gulf from Iran in Bahrain and the Pentagon said there had been 14 “unsafe” and/or “unprofessional” encounters between the U.S. and Iranian militaries during 2017.
In January 2016, two U.S. riverine command boats were seized by Iran’s Navy after they inadvertently entered Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. The seamen were taken hostage but released 15 hours later. Iran viewed the event as a military victory and re-enactments depicting U.S. soldiers as captives are staged at many public events in Iran.