Pentagon: Iranian Warships Didn't Dock in Syria
The Pentagon on Tuesday disputed reports Iranian warships had docked at a Syrian port over the weekend.
Iran's state-run Press TV said Saturday that an Iranian navy destroyer and a supply ship had docked in the port of Tartus to "provide training to ally Syria's naval forces."
Tartus is located 220 km from the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Reuters reported that the two ships — one destroyer and the other, a supply vessel — were headed back towards the Red Sea via the Suez Canal early on Tuesday.
According to analysts, Iran carefully timed the visit of its warships to follow the previous docking of the Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov.
In Tehran, lawmakers claimed that developments in Syria were uniting Tehran and Moscow, with the open ended possibility of other major players — perhaps China — joining them.
Moscow and Beijing have actively blocked attempts in the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has killed no fewer than 5,400 civilians since anti-government protests erupted a year ago.
Iranian Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Ahmad Vahidi on Tuesday claimed that by passing through the Suez Canal twice in one year, the Iranian navy was "demonstrating the ineffectiveness of sanctions against Tehran."
But Defense Department press secretary George Little said Tuesday the U.S. military saw no indication that the ships docked or delivered any cargo.
Little told reporters the Iranian warships went through the Suez Canal and now appear to be going back through the canal again.
The entry and exit of Iranian warships to the Mediterranean has been widely seen as an attempt to provoke Israel amid rising tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
Israel, the United States, its Western allies, and Gulf Arab nations say Iran is making a push to obtain nuclear weapons in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - to which Tehran is a signatory.
Iran denies the charge, but senior officials in Tehran have repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state and referred to Israel as a "one bomb state."