An announcement that Iran may deploy new-generation warships to Venezuelan waters is being regarded by analysts as the mother of all provocations because it could alter the region’s geopolitical balance and almost certainly disturb the U.S. government.
“The arrival of these Iranian ships would upset the regional order,” said Rocio San Miguel, president of Control Ciudadano, a non-governmental organization that monitors Venezuela’s armed forces. This is going to bother neighboring countries and “generate an undesirable situation,” she added in a telephone interview from Spain.
Amid the growing tensions between Washington and Tehran, the Iranian government last week launched a destroyer, built in the Islamic country, with stealth properties that allow it to avoid radar detection.
In one of its first official comments on the new Sahand destroyer — which can carry helicopters, fire torpedoes and shoot down airplanes — Iran said it could deploy two or three of them to Venezuela.
“Our plans for the near future include sending two or three ships, with special helicopters, to Venezuela on a South American mission that could last for five months,” the deputy commander of the Iranian navy, Rear Admiral Touraj Hassani Moqaddam, was quoted as saying in a Reuters news agency report.
Venezuela has become an important strategic ally of Iran over the past 20 years of Chavista rule, and the two countries have signed economic and military agreements valued in the billions of dollars.
San Miguel said that despite the agreements, none of the joint projects have been successful.
But if the Tehran announcement proves correct, that could prove to be very negative for both countries, warned Martín Rodil, an expert on Iran-Venezuela relations.
“This is extremely dangerous. It’s crazy to send three warships to the U.S. backyard,” Rodil said from Washington, D.C. “If it happens, the only thing it will do is that Washington will send an aircraft carrier to the Venezuelan coast.”
“Iran today is the most critical point of U.S. foreign policy. It’s one of the issues that President Donald Trump has spent the most time on, and sending those ships would be a provocation the administration could not ignore,” he added.
Trump withdrew the United States from an international accord signed by the Obama administration to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and has reintroduced economic sanctions on Tehran.
Trump argued that the accord has grave errors because it did not halt Iran’s development of ballistic missiles.
Despite warnings from Washington that Iran continues to be a danger to the Western world, the Nicolas Maduro regime in Caracas has continued to maintain warm relations with Tehran.
That relationship, on top of Tehran’s relations with Havana, Moscow and more recently Istanbul, has been generating fears in Venezuela, especially because of the growing tensions between those countries and the United States.
The opposition Grand National Alliance has alleged that Maduro is willing to create an international crisis if needed to strengthen his relationship with those countries at a time when the rest of the international community has been denouncing his regime for human rights violations, rarely seen levels of corruption and the destruction of Venezuelan democracy.
“These actions, which are part of a script written in Cuba, would be designed to create an international conflict with the goal of keeping Maduro in power after Jan. 10, when his presidential term is supposed to expire, in exchange for handing control of our national territory to Russia, China, Cuba, Iran and other countries,” the Alliance said in a communique.
“Maduro knows he’s cornered. The U.S. government and the president-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, have clearly said that they will act to reestablish democracy in Venezuela,” it added.
“The foreign minister of Chile announced publicly that several nations will end their recognition of the Venezuelan regime starting on Jan. 10,” it added. “More and more evidence turns up abroad about the gross corruption among the leaders and allies of the (Chavista) revolution; and Maduro suffered a humiliating defeat during his recent visit to Mexico.”