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Iran Navy To Send Warships To Atlantic

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(RFE/RL) — The Iranian Navy will send warships to the Atlantic Ocean after March, a top commander said.

Iran is looking to increase the operating range of its naval forces in the Atlantic, close to the waters of the United States, its arch enemy.

Tehran sees the presence of U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, along Iran’s coast, as a security concern and its navy has looked to counter that by showing its naval presence near U.S. waters.

“The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani, Iran’s naval deputy commander, as saying.

Hassani said the move was intended to “thwart Iranophobia plots” and “secure shipping routes.”

He said Sahand, a newly-built destroyer, would be one of the warships deployed.

Sahand has a flight deck for helicopters and Iran says it is equipped with antiaircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, and also has electronic warfare capabilities.

The vessels are expected to dock in a friendly South American country such as Venezuela, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.

Hassani said in December that Iran would soon send two to three vessels on a mission to Venezuela, an ally.

Iran’s navy has extended its reach in recent years, launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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