A US defense official on Sunday downplayed a report from the previous day that the Iranian navy has sent warships into the Atlantic Ocean with the intent of conducting maneuvers close to US waters.
The official, speaking anonymously, said that “ships are free to operate in international waters” but expressed doubt that Iran would sent ships close to US maritime borders, according to a Reuters report.
On Saturday, the commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying that the vessels have already begun the journey to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.
“Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message,” the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted him saying. According to Fars, Iran dispatched several warships to the North Atlantic.
There was no immediate official response from Washington to the news.
Iranian officials, announcing plans for the venture last month, said that the fleet consisted of a destroyer and a logistic helicopter carrier, and that it would be on a three-month mission.
Haddad said the fleet was approaching US maritime borders for the first time. The Islamic Republic considers the move as a response to US naval deployments near its own coastlines, Iran indicated. The US Navy’s 5th fleet is based in nearby Bahrain.
Earlier Saturday, Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said American officials are “lying” when they say they are not seeking regime change in Iran.
“American officials tell our authorities at talks that they are not after regime change in Iran. They are lying because they won’t hesitate a moment if they had the ability to do so,” said Khamenei.