In a move that, if true, is ominously being called “a tremendous escalation” from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the theocratic nation has announced its plans to station warships in America’s backyard.
For the first time, the commander of Iran’s navy, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani said he will be moving his forces to the Panama Canal, one of the world’s critical trade routes, later this year in an effort to “strengthen” its presence in “international waters.”
“The army navy has been present in all the strategic straits in the world to date, and we have not been present in only two straits, and we will be present in one of these straits this year,” Irani said during a ceremony in Iran’s capital. “We are planning to be present in the Panama Canal.”
“Today we have to strengthen our maritime presence in international waters and today we can say that there is no scientific barrier to grow in that field,” he stated.
Should he follow through, it would mark the first time Iran’s navy has ventured into the Pacific Ocean and would place Irani’s ships just 2,500 miles from America’s southernmost border.
Reports The Washington Free Beacon:
Iran in recent years has placed a greater focus on moving its military into Latin American territories as it strengthens relations with anti-American dictators in the region, most notably in Venezuela. Iranian vessels have docked more frequently in Venezuela as Tehran’s hardline regime seeks to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. These moves are meant to provoke the United States and signal that Tehran has the ability to station its military apparatus a stone’s throw from U.S. territory.
Joseph Humire is a national security analyst and as the executive director of the national security think tank, the Center for a Secure Free Society, he focuses on issues affecting Latin America.
According to him, Iran has been holding joint exercises with Russia and China and began laying the groundwork for a presence in Panama decades ago.
“This is what Iran has been building in Latin America for the past 30 or 40 years,” he told the Free Beacon.
Iran’s goal “has always been to have a military presence in Latin America, so it’s not surprising at all for its navy to announce it’s going to make moves on the Panama Canal,” he said, adding that Iran is working on its relations with Colombia in addition to Venezuela and Nicaragua.
“This is a tremendous escalation if it is to happen,” Humire said. “Many people may discount Iran in terms of its capabilities … but I would not discount it because they have been building to this for a very long time.”
Increasingly, the chaos of Latin America has become a refuge for enemies of the United States.
China has poured billions into the region via its now-faltering Belt & Road Initiative and, according to the Free Beacon, the Iranian-controlled terrorist group, Hezbollah, “also has a presence in Latin America that has been gaining ground for years.”
“Hezbollah militants are known to travel freely in Venezuela and across the relatively lawless Tri-Border Area that includes Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina,” the outlet reports.
The announcement of Iran’s commitment to a presence in the Panama Canal is likely seen “as a means to bolster and protect its interests in countries like Venezuela, where Iran has been helping Maduro repair his country’s dilapidated oil refineries.”
Last June, Iran and Venezuela solidified their economic ties to each other with a 20-year strategic cooperation agreement. Both nations have been heavily sanctioned by the United States.
Even more disturbing, the Free Beacon notes, “Latin American dictatorships have also served as a hub for Iran to evade U.S. sanctions and make arms deals.”
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