The IRIS Makran and IRIS Dena ships are authorized to stay in Rio until March 4, and the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated both ships for sanctions last month. Brazilian officials have not yet commented on the statements from Israeli and American officials.
The trip comes amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the West over the collapse of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and as Iran enriches uranium to closer to weapons-grade levels.
Iranian officials have portrayed the trip as challenging America’s influence in its own backyard, which has been a point of contention as Tehran continually criticizes the presence of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in the region. Iran also faces nationwide protests and anger after the September death of Masha Amini, a woman who died after being detained by the country’s morality police.
In the time since those demonstrations, Tehran has tried to flex its military elsewhere.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made international diplomacy a feature of his second presidential term, which ended in 2010. That included attempting to broker a nuclear deal between the US and Iran during his second presidential term that same year, though talks ran aground.
Elected in October to return to the presidency, Lula quickly traveled to Washington last month to demonstrate his alignment with President Joe Biden. Biden’s special climate envoy John Kerry was also in Brazil’s capital this week to discuss collaboration to protect the Amazon rainforest.
US Senator Ted Cruz has noted that the US has already sanctioned the two Iranian warships, and Rio de Janeiro’s port and any Brazilian service providers are now at risk of sanctions. He added that “The Biden administration is obligated to impose relevant sanctions, reevaluate Brazil’s cooperation with US antiterrorism efforts, and reexamine whether Brazil is maintaining effective antiterrorism measures at its ports.”