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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is demanding President Joe Biden take a “forceful” stand against two Iranian warships cruising in the Atlantic Ocean, possibly bringing weapons to Venezuela.
Rubio posted Saturday on Twitter:
“#Iran’s largest military vessel and most modern missile destroyer are days away from delivering missiles and attack boats to the [Nicolás] Maduro regime and conducting exercises off our coast. Biden shouldn’t allow desperation to salvage the Iran deal to keep him from confronting this forcefully.”
Iranian media announced Thursday the two warships, the destroyer Sahand and intelligence-gathering Makran rounded the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and are now in the Atlantic Ocean, the Tehran Times reported.
“The [Iranian] Navy is improving its seafaring capacity and proving its long-term durability in unfavorable seas and the Atlantic’s unfavorable weather conditions,” Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, Iran’s deputy Army chief for coordination affairs, told the Times.
While Iran would not say what the destination for the ships are, U.S. military officials believe they are bringing weapons and possibly oil to Venezuela to help ally Nicolás Maduro in the wake of heavy U.S. sanctions.
“The precedent of allowing Iran to provide weapons to the region causes me great concern,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Thursday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the U.K.’s Independent reported.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin agreed with Blumenthal, and said he was informed they are carrying weapons that were purchased by Venezuela last year when sanctions preventing such a sale expired in October.
“I am absolutely concerned about the proliferation of weapons, any type of weapons, in our neighborhood,” Austin said. “And so, I share your concern.”
The Biden administration is asking Venezuela, Cuba, and other ports to turn the ships away if they try to dock, Politico reported June 9.
The Biden administration, however, finds itself in the dubious position of trying to deal with the ships in a firm way just as negotiations start up again this weekend about reviving the Obama era Iran nuclear deal.
The other problem is, so far, Iran is not violating International Law, even if it is carrying weapons as part of a deal with Venezuela.
“Warships on the high seas have complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any State other than the flag State,” according to International Law Article 95.
According to a June 10 article in Foreign Policy, the ships have the right to navigate international waters unmolested by costal states unless they threaten the state.
Iran has been trying to get its ships to make such a long voyage, currently more than 6,000 nautical miles from home, and said in 2019, it wanted to have “a flotilla” of its ships in the Atlantic Ocean, the Navy Times reported.