According to a report from Politico, the US is calling on Venezuela and Cuba to turn away two Iranian warships that the US claims are carrying weapons that are intended to be transferred to Caracas.
Since Venezuela and Iran are under such heavy US sanctions, the two countries are natural trading partners. The growing trade relationship angers Washington. The US has gone as far as stealing Iranian gasoline shipments that were bound for Venezuela.
US officials say the Iranian ships are traveling across the Atlantic to deliver weapons to fulfill a deal Iran and Venezuela made last year. It’s not clear if the claim is true, but if it is, whether the shipment goes through a Cuban or Venezuelan port, the US has little power over these countries since they are already under crippling sanctions.
Politico cited two sources who said Venezuela was trying to leverage the situation for sanctions relief. The report said US intermediaries had told Venezuela that if the ships dock, it would make it less likely that the Biden administration would offer any relief. But considering President Biden seems to have no interest in changing Trump’s Venezuela policy, Caracas has no reason to take the US at its word.
Washington’s concerns about Iranian warships headed to the region ring hollow because the US is constantly sailing warships near Iran’s coast. There have been two incidents in recent months of US Coast Guard vessels firing warning shots towards Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf.
The US concern over a weapons sale is also hard to take seriously. A US official told Politico that the delivery of Iranian arms to Venezuela would be a “provocative act.” But the US is already waging an economic war against these countries, supplies weapons to Iran’s neighbors, and frequently supports covert Israeli attacks inside Iran, which is all much more provocative than what Iran and Venezuela are doing.