What we know about Iran’s warships in Latin America

What we know about Iran’s warships in Latin America

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(CNN Spanish) — Two Iranian Navy warships are sailing in international waters off the coast of Latin America, according to Iranian state media and Brazilian authorities.

The 86th flotilla, made up of the destroyer IRIS Dena and the warship IRIS Makran, has been around the world since the end of September 2022 “with a message of peace and solidarity” and at the same time to show “the growing military and naval power of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

The two ships received permission on January 13 to dock at the port of Rio de Janeiro, between January 23 and 30, according to an official document from the Brazilian Ministry of Defense.

It was not clear whether or not the ships had finally docked in Rio de Janeiro, however. CNN contacted the Brazilian Navy General Staff but did not receive a response.

In the next few days the flotilla will head to the Panama Canal, the Iranian news agency Tasnim reported, citing statements by Rear Admiral Shahram Irani.

The Iranian-made destroyer IRIS Jamaran, the first of the Mowj class to which the IRIS Dena belongs, sails in the Gulf on February 21, 2009. (Credit: EBRAHIM NOUROZI/AFP via Getty Images)

The presence of the ships in Latin America was also reported by Rear Admiral Hamzeh Ali Kaviani, second in command of the Iranian Navy, according to the state chain Press TV.

The 86th Flotilla is one of three squadrons currently deployed by Iran in international waters: the 88th Flotilla is in the Indian Ocean and the 89th Flotilla is in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, the IRIS Dena is a Mowj -or Moudge- class destroyer manufactured in Iran with a displacement of 1,300 tons, armed with missiles, torpedoes and cannons, and which entered service in 2021, according to the state agency Mehr.

While the IRIS Makran is an oil tanker converted into a logistics ship for military use, weighing 121,000 tons (the largest ship in the Iranian navy).

recent tensions

Iran has had tense relations with the West for decades, and in recent years has been at the center of the world stage due to the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 – a pact designed to reduce tensions through concessions from both parties -, ordered by Donald Trump in 2018, and the election of Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric, as president of the country in 2021.

The Iranian boxer who is a symbol of the protest movement 4:06

Recently, Iran has returned to the center of attention due to the wave of protests after the death of Mahsa Amini —violently repressed— and also for having also been providing Russia with drones for military use, which were deployed in combat in Ukraine, and their Military forces, especially the Republican Guards, have had run-ins with US ships in the Persian Gulf.

If the Dena and the Makran finally arrive in Panama, moreover, they will do so in the midst of another diplomatic conflict, after the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) withdrew its flag from 136 ships linked to the state company National Iranian in mid-January Oil Company (NIOC), according to the Reuters agency.

The decision is due to suspicions that these ships could be linked to the financing of terrorist groups, the AMP said in a statement cited by Reuters, in the context of increasing US sanctions on Iran.

The Iranian Port and Maritime Organization (PMO) said that the removal of the flag from 136 ships is “insignificant” and that they were the result of “political pressure from the imperialist government of the United States”, according to HispanTV, an Iranian state channel in Spanish Language.

Panama has the largest shipping registry in the world, giving its flag to 8,653 ships.