Israel warned Brazil that it was dangerous to allow two Iranian warships to dock in Rio de Janeiro, noting that their presence in the southern Atlantic Ocean was a "dangerous and regretful development.”
“It is still not too late to order the ships to leave the port," the Foreign Ministry stated Thursday in a sharply worded statement.
The ships are part of the Iranian navy which works with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fleet, which is a designated terror entity by the United States, the Foreign Ministry said.
The Biden administration had specifically issued sanctions against the ships and their geographical location in Latin America places them just one continent away from the US shores.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that the Biden administration wanted to make sure that the “IRGC – that Iran more broadly is not able to acquire a foothold, is not able to take advantage of others in this hemisphere."
“It is certainly not the case that the Brazilian Government or the Brazilian people would want to do anything that would in turn assist, that would aid a government, a regime that is responsible for a brutal crackdown and violent repression against its own people,” Price said.
Israeli officials on the way to Washington
Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer are set to travel to Washington next week to discuss Iran with the Biden administration.
Their trip, which was first reported by the Israeli Walla news organization, comes in advance of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board meeting in Vienna on March 6, a body where the US holds one of the 35 seats.
Israel has increasingly bonded with its western allies, particularly the United States, over their joint concern regarding the Iranian execution of street protestors and Tehran’s enrichment of uranium at 84%, which is close to the 90% needed for weapons-grade nuclear production.
IAEA head Rafael Grossi is slated to visit Iran on Friday, according to the semi-official Fars news agency to explore the reports regarding enriched uranium.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has made it a priority to halt Iran’s nuclear program and has pushed in particular to sway countries to follow the US lead in designating the IRGC as a terror entity.
In speaking out about the docking of the Iranian ships on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said, "Brazil should not grant any prize to a malign state, responsible for numerous violations of Human Rights against its own citizens, executing terror attacks all over the world and proliferating weaponry to terrorist organizations all over the Middle East.
"The Iranian regime has executed dozens of terror attacks against ships, putting in danger the maritime freedom of navigation. Two of the attacks occurred in recent weeks," it said.
"This is the time to follow the steps taken by the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and many other countries, and single out the Iranian regime as what it really is: A terror entity," the Foreign Ministry stated.
Lula grants permission for Iran warships to dock
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government had granted permission for the ships to dock despite pressure from the United States to bar them.
The IRIS Makran and IRIS Dena warships both arrived on Sunday morning, Rio's port authority said in a statement.
Reuters earlier this month reported that Brazil had bowed to US pressure and declined Iran's request for the vessels to dock in Rio in late January, in a gesture from Lula as he flew to Washington to meet US President Joe Biden.
However, with Lula's trip over, the ships have been allowed to dock. Vice Admiral Carlos Eduardo Horta Arentz, the deputy chief of Brazil's Naval Staff, gave his approval for the ships to dock in Rio between February 26 and March 4, according to a February 23 notice in the official gazette.
The US Embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Brazilian Navy authorizes a foreign vessel to dock in Brazil, but only after authorization from the foreign ministry, which takes into account the requesting embassy's petition and logistics.
The presence of the Iranian warships on Brazilian shores continues to irk the United States as it seeks to build closer ties with Lula's administration, which came into office on January 1.
In a February 15 press conference, US Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley urged Brazil not to allow the ships to dock.
"In the past, those ships facilitated illegal trade and terrorist activities, and have also been sanctioned by the United States. Brazil is a sovereign nation, but we firmly believe those ships should not dock anywhere," she said.
Diplomacy with Iran was one of the highlights of Lula's attempts to bolster Brazil's international standing during his previous presidential terms. He traveled to Tehran to meet then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010 as he sought to broker a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States.