Satellite imagery of Makran from April had shown it carrying at least seven fast attack craft, possibly types capable of being armed with anti-ship cruise missiles, on its upper deck. This, in turn, had suggested that Iran might be planning to deliver those boats, as well as other weapons and military-related cargo, to Venezuela.
“The precedent of allowing Iran to provide weapons to the region causes me great concern,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told members of Congress at hearing today. “I am absolutely concerned about the proliferation of weapons, any type of weapons, in our neighborhood.”
“The delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and understood as a threat to our partners in the Western Hemisphere,” the senior U.S. government official had also told Politico on June 9. “We would reserve the right to take appropriate measures in coordination with our partners to deter the transit or delivery of such weapons.”
The is roughly identical to a statement Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby issued last week. Politico also reported that the Biden administration had warned both Venezuela and Cuba against allowing the Iranian naval vessels to enter their ports for any reason, adding that officials in Caracas had apparently indicated that they might be willing to acquiesce to the American demands in exchange for sanctions relief.
President Donald Trump and his administration had hit the Venezuelan government with a number of new sanctions following abortive attempts, starting in 2019, by opponents of President Nicolas Maduro to bring an end to his increasingly dictatorial regime. There was also a bizarre failed coup against Maduro, led in part by American mercenaries, including veterans of U.S. special operations units, in 2020. Ties between the Venezuelan and Iranian governments have also grown, in general, in recent years, with Maduro openly talking about buying weapons from Iran, including “short, medium and long range missiles,” last year. There have been reports of Venezuelan cooperation with Iran on the production of drones in the past, as well.