LONDON • The Iranian navy will send warships to the Atlantic from March, a top commander has said, as the Islamic Republic seeks to increase the operating range of its naval forces to the backyard of the United States, its arch foe.
Iran sees the presence of US aircraft carriers in the Gulf as a security concern and its navy has sought to counter that by showing the flag near American waters.
A flotilla will leave for the Atlantic early in the Iranian new year, starting from March, Iran's naval deputy commander said last Friday.
"The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months," Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
He said the Sahand, a newly built destroyer, would be one of the warships.
The Sahand has a flight deck for helicopters, and Iran says it is equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and has electronic warfare capabilities.
Rear-Adm Hassani said last month that Iran would soon send two to three vessels on a mission to Venezuela.
A senior Iranian military official also said last month that the navy could sail in the Atlantic near US waters since US aircraft carriers were allowed to move around in international waters near Iran.
The Iranian navy has extended its reach in recent years, launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect the country's ships from Somali pirates.
"By their continuous presence in international waters, Iranian naval forces aim to implement the orders of commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), wave the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran, thwart the Iranophobia plots, and secure shipping routes," Rear-Adm Hassani said.
A US-Iranian war of words has escalated since US President Donald Trump took Washington out of a world powers' nuclear deal with Iran last May, and reimposed sanctions on its banking and energy sectors.