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U.S. Monitoring Iranian Bid to Establish ‘Military Presence’ in Panama Canal

Iranian naval ship (Wikimedia Commons)
Iranian naval ship (Wikimedia Commons)

The State Department said on Tuesday that it is monitoring "Iran's attempts to have a military presence in the Western Hemisphere," putting the Biden administration in an increasingly difficult position as it balances anti-regime protests, Iranian military escalation, and collapsing diplomacy over a revamped nuclear deal.

A State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon that it is tracking a recent announcement by the commander of Iran’s navy indicating that warships will establish a presence in the Panama Canal as soon as next month. Already, two Iranian warships—including one equipped with "anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, and naval cannons"—were granted permission to dock in Brazil earlier this week, according to documents published by the Brazilian Navy.

"We are aware of these claims by Iran’s navy," the State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon. "We continue to monitor Iran's attempts to have a military presence in the Western Hemisphere." The official would not preview any potential action the Biden administration may take in response, or answer questions about how it views Iran’s growing military presence in Latin America.

Iran’s increasing influence in Latin America poses a unique problem for the Biden administration as it navigates diplomacy in the region amid a growing number of dictatorships that view an alliance with Tehran as beneficial. Venezuela, for instance, recently inked a massive foreign policy agreement with the Iranian government that will see Tehran increasing its role in the country’s lucrative energy sector. Iranian vessels have more frequently voyaged into the Latin American region, and this month’s announcement by the Iranian Navy indicates the hardline regime is seeking to protect its interests with force.

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