Iran vows to station warships in Panama Canal

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — The Iranian navy plans to station warships in a critical trading route: the Panama Canal. The announcement comes amid an ongoing campaign to install an Iranian military presence in Latin America — which would also come to the doorstep of the United States.

The commander of Iran’s Navy, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, announced Wednesday that his forces will establish a presence in the Panama Canal by the end of this year, marking the first time Iran’s navy has sailed in the Pacific Ocean, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

It’s a move the Pentagon sees as defiance — bordering on provocation.

For Iran, it’s a step toward a growing relationship with some of its allies: dictator-led nationals like Venezuela, no ally of the U.S., along with Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Yet, it’s also a move that puts Iran within striking distance of the U.S. at a time when relations between the two countries are becoming tenser. The U.S. Department of State has called Iran out for providing drones and support to Russia to help fuel its war in Ukraine.

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that the U.S. sanctioned seven people involved in Iran’s drone program.

The move also comes at a time when Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi, continue to make threats and in some cases plot to assassinate high-ranking American officials involved in the killing of Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian general, in Jan. 2020, like John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The Biden administration continues to condemn Iran for executing protest leaders, many of whom have been taking to the streets for months protesting Iranian treatment of women and the Islamic government.

NewsNation reached out to the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of State for comment on Iranian naval plans; they only acknowledged they’re aware of the plans but didn’t say much beyond that.