Iranian military leaders announced on Tuesday the country will send a fleet of warships into the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Gulf of Mexico, where the Islamic Republic aims to solidify ties with several Latin American states, according to the commander of Iran's navy.
Following orders from Iran's supreme leader, the newly installed commander of its navy, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, announced a fleet of Iranian warships would soon be making their way into the Atlantic Ocean, despite what Iran claims is opposition by U.S. officials.
As Iran continues to deploy military assets to Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern hotspots, its navy is placing a renewed focus on displaying force in international waters, according to the military leaders.
The latest military displays follow a series of provocative moves by Tehran aimed at rattling U.S. officials in the Trump administration, which has increasingly sought to confront Iran's regional intransigence. Any Iranian presence in the Atlantic Ocean is certain to put U.S. military leaders in edge, according to experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
The Iranian war fleet "will berth in the friendly states in Latin America and the Gulf of Mexico in the near future by deployment in the Atlantic Ocean," according to Iranian Navy Cmdr. Khanzadi.
Iran intends to show greater force in international waters and is working to solidify ties with allies in Latin America, according to Khanzadi, who was quoted in Iran's state-controlled press organs.
The effort to send warships to the Atlantic Ocean is meant to send a message to the Trump administration, the commander said.
"The Americans had somewhere said that the Iranians cannot sail 9,000 miles from Bandar Abbas to the Gulf of Mexico, given their capabilities, but we will certainly prove them this capability and will contact our friends [in Latin America]," Khanzadi was quoted as saying.
"We are not faced with any restriction for deploying in the seas, and anywhere we feel that we have interests to develop ties," according to Khanzadi. "We will certainly deploy there and we enjoy this power too."
A State Department official declined to comment on Iran's latest military announcement.
Iranian efforts to sail its warships into the Atlantic Ocean coincide with a call by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to boost the Iranian military presence in international waters.
"The navy is in the frontline of defending the country with important regions, such as Makran, the Sea of Oman, and the international waters, in front of it," Khamenei said in Tuesday remarks celebrating Iran's Navy Day.
"Presence in free waters should continue similar to the past," Khamenei added ahead of a meeting with Iranian military leaders.
Khamenei further disclosed that Iran is working to produce more advanced military equipment.
"The navy is more advanced and capable compared with 20 years ago but this level of advance is not convincing and a high-speed move should be pursued with determination, high morale, lots of efforts, innovation, and action," he was quoted as saying.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official who regularly briefs military officials before deployments to the Middle East, told the Free Beacon that millions in cash assets provided to Iran by the Obama administration has helped fuel its latest military pursuits.
"As the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' ground forces have had to focus more on internal security inside Iran, the Iranian regime has turned to two organizations to conduct operations abroad: The Quds Force is in charge of terrorism and propping up proxy forces in places like Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; and the IRGC Navy is in charge of projecting power and showing the flag," Rubin explained. "They've gotten a cash infusion thanks to the previous administration."
Moving into the Atlantic Ocean can help boost Iranian military propaganda and also provide the country with a chance to solidify alliances in Latin America, according to Rubin.
"By sailing into the Atlantic or even the Gulf of Mexico, they can not only win a propaganda coup for their domestic audience but, on a more strategic level, they can demonstrate and cement their logistical alliances with countries like Cuba and Venezuela," he said.