WASHINGTON — Iran has been on the mind of the White House and Tehran plans to give Washington a closer look.
This spring the Iranian Navy plans to sail an unspecified number of its naval ships around the Atlantic Ocean. It would be the first time Iran’s navy has ventured beyond the Indian Ocean.
According to published reports, the sailing will center around Iran’s newest destroyer called the Sanhand — named after a mountain in northern Iran — and would have a prominent port call in Venezuela. It may also sail in the Gulf of Mexico and make a port call in Cuba, according to published reports.
The destroyer was commissioned in December, one month after Washington restored sanctions against Iran that had been halted under the 2015 nuclear deal.
The action, in part, is to counter the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf. Iranian activity against U.S ships and personnel ebbs and flows and it atop the watch list for U.S. Central Command, Pentagon officials have told reporters. They have said the number of incidents has dropped since spring of 2018.
Iran also announced it will join Russia in another round of joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea, according to news reports.
Pentagon officials had no comment Monday on the proposed Iranian sailings.
The Pentagon routinely conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations or FONOPs in Pentagon parlance. That tactic is used to sail in waters considered international — more than 12 nautical miles from shore — but which are claimed by one or more nations. Under international maritime law, national sovereignty over water ends at 12 nautical miles.
The ships may leave Iran for the Atlantic in March, according to published reports.
“The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani, the deputy Iranian naval commander, told the state news agency IRNA. He said the Sahand would be joined by at least two or three other ships for the visit to Venezuela.
He described the Sahand as having “a flight deck for helicopters” and equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and electronic warfare capabilities,” according to Reuters.
As recounted by the Navy Times, the previous Iranian vessel named Sahand met a fiery end in 1988 at the hands of the U.S. military.