For the first time since its establishment in 1979, the Iranian regime has successfully led a navy flotilla to the Atlantic Ocean. The regime is clearly testing the Biden administration. America’s response to Iran’s military escalation will have a significant impact on Tehran’s political calculations and its future arms deals with South America.
Seven high-speed missile-attack craft have been seen on one of the Iranian Navy ships that made it to the Atlantic this month. The two warships are most likely heading toward Venezuela. This is because the government of Venezuela has previously demonstrated its desire to receive Iranian weapons.
Last year, during a televised broadcast with Cabinet members, President Nicolas Maduro instructed Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino to follow up with Iran concerning its missiles. He said: “Padrino, what a good idea, to speak with Iran to see what short, medium and long-range missiles they have, and if it is possible, given the great relations we have with Iran.”
In addition, the Iranian regime and Venezuela have signed several military and industrial agreements in recent years. For the Iranian authorities, there are military, strategic and economic benefits involved in cooperating with Caracas.
Strategically speaking, from the perspective of the Iranian regime, equipping Venezuela with advanced ballistic missiles can pose a threat to and damage the national interests of its main rival, the US. The range of Iran’s existing ballistic missiles has grown to more than 2,000 km, meaning they cannot reach the US from Iranian territory, but can threaten Eastern Europe, as well as countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Yemen.
By providing long-range ballistic missiles to South American countries, Iran will be able to claim that its missiles can hit US territory too. Since the Tehran regime prefers to engage in asymmetrical warfare with its rivals rather than direct confrontations, it can also set up militia groups in South America and arm them with its weapons and missiles.
Tehran has already accomplished similar plans in other countries, including Yemen. The sophisticated drones and missiles that the Houthi militia is using most likely came from the Iranian regime, which has recognized the terror group as the official government of Yemen. A UN report released in January 2021 stated there is strong evidence showing that the Iranian regime is a provider of weapons to the Houthis. The UN panel of experts report said: “An increasing body of evidence suggests that individuals or entities in Iran supply significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis.”
Saudi Arabia has been the main target of the Iranian weapons supplied to the Houthis. The militia launched more than 40 drones and missiles at the Kingdom in February alone. Previously, the Houthis also claimed responsibility for the 2019 attacks on two Aramco plants at the heart of the Kingdom’s oil industry — the world’s biggest oil processing facility at Abqaiq, near Dammam, and the country’s second-largest oil field at Khurais.
Iran was reportedly planning to ship weapons to Venezuela during the Trump administration. But after the previous administration threatened to destroy any shipments, Tehran apparently waited until President Joe Biden assumed office. During the Trump administration, then-Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams warned: “Iran has announced its intention to engage in arms sales, and Venezuela is an obvious target because those two pariah regimes already have a relationship… The transfer of long-range missiles from Iran to Venezuela is not acceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated or permitted. We will make every effort to stop shipments of long-range missiles, and if somehow they get to Venezuela, they will be eliminated there.”
If the Biden administration does not react forcefully and stop Iran’s suspected weapons delivery to Venezuela, the Iranian leaders will be empowered, emboldened and will further increase their arms sales to South America. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, compared the current situation to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, “though at a much-reduced level of threat.” He added: “The precedent of Iran being allowed to send arms to an adversary in this hemisphere is pretty alarming.”
Economically speaking, cash-stripped Iran can skirt sanctions and gain access to revenue by selling weapons to South American countries. Reports in May 2020 revealed that the sanctioned Iranian airline Mahan Air, which has ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, made several flights to the South American nation the previous month. The Iranian regime reportedly delivered “parts, technicians and gasoline additives to fix a major refinery in Venezuela,” receiving nine tons of gold bars in return.
In summary, the Iranian regime and Venezuela are testing the Biden administration. It is incumbent on the US to respond forcefully to Iran’s escalation.
Source » eurasiareview