The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy is sending ships to the Panama Canal, according to an article published in state-run media Friday.
The Iranian Navy has yet to operate in two straits in the world, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani said Wednesday at a navy ceremony, according to Tehran Times. One of them is the Panama Canal. Irani did not identify the other strait but said the Iran Navy would operate in it this year.
Irani did not lay out a similar timeline for when ships may head to the Panama Canal.
“Today, if my comrades are approaching the shores of the American continent, they are showing signs of the authority of dear Iran,” Irani said. “As a showcase for the dear people of our country, we appeared in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Of course, along this route, Australia and the French created threats for us and tried to violate the laws they had approved to cross their coasts. But we answered them with authority and according to the law.”
He went on to say that the Iran Navy has set up commands in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, with one expected in the Pacific Ocean this year.
The Iranian navy has been trying to extend its international presence and range of port visits, Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told USNI News. However, whether it makes it to the Panama Canal is unclear, as the Iranian navy is known to be hyperbolic, he said.
“If anything, the statement tells one more about Iranian intentions than capabilities, as the regime tries to project strength abroad when it is increasingly looking weak at home,” Taleblu said.
#FAPF/ Un Falcon 200 🇨🇵 a pris contact avec 2 navires militaires iraniens à l’ouest de la ZEE Polynésie ayant l’intention de la traverser au sud des Marquises pour un transit transpacifique. Les F200 contribuent à l’appréciation autonome de situation et la sécurisation de la ZEE pic.twitter.com/XtSHdfLkAv
— ALPACI – France Pacific Command (@ALPACIFRAPACOM) December 25, 2022
While Irani did not specify what ships would travel to the vicinity of the Panama Canal, two Iranian Navy ships deployed last year and have been operating in the Pacific. Frigate IRIS Dena and IRINS Makran, Iran’s largest warship, made a port call in Jakarta, Indonesia, and was tracked by the French Navy and the Royal Australian Navy.
“As part of Australia’s broader whole-of-government maritime border protection efforts, Defence routinely monitors maritime traffic in the vicinity of our exclusive economic zone and maritime approaches,” an Australian defense official told local broadcaster ABC.
“Defence has been aware of two Iranian warships operating in the Indo-Pacific for some time.”
In December, Irani said the two-ship deployment represented an expansion of Iran’s maritime ambitions.
“What is important in the matter of maritime presence is authority … presence in the seas means power and authority,” the navy chief explained.
“The first message that a frigate or submarine sends out is that the country that builds them has acquired the required knowledge to dominate the sea.”
In 2021, IRINS Makran, and frigate IRINS Sahand deployed for four months reaching as far as the Baltic Sea.