Iran to Send Navy Ships Near U.S. Coast: Commander
White House: "We don't take these statements seriously."
Sept. 28, 2011 — -- Iran plans to send Navy vessels steaming across the Atlantic and towards the U.S. to build up an open sea presence along the marine border with the east coast, according to the Iranian Navy's top commander.
"Just like the global hegemony that is present near our marine borders, we … also plan to establish a strong presence near U.S. marine borders," Iranian Navy Commander Habibollah Sayyari said Tuesday, according to Iran's state news agency.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defense said that Iran is "obviously" free to take their ships into international waters halfway around the world but questioned the country's ability or willingness to do so.
"There is freedom of the high seas," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters today. "Now whether they can truly project naval power beyond the region is another question in and of itself... I wouldn't read too much into what came out of Iran today."
"What is said and what is actually done can be two different things," he said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney was even more blunt in his assessment, saying, "We don't take these statements seriously."
The Iranian commander made the comments at the same Tehran ceremony where another top naval commander reportedly said the country had denied a recent request from the U.S. to establish a direct "hotline" between the two countries.
"We would establish direct contact with the United States if we would ever go to the Gulf of Mexico," Ali Fadavi, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy, said.
Reports emerged earlier this month that some U.S. officials were considering establishing a hotline between the U.S. and Iranian navies after a series of incidents in the Persian Gulf that could potentially have led to a greater conflict. A senior defense official told ABC News, however, that any discussion of such a hotline was "premature".
"There may or may not be advocates for establishing a naval hotline at some point," the official said then, "but discussion of it is very premature. There are no proposals for opening up such a channel currently in front of either the Secretary of Defense or the President."
Little said today he was not aware of "any contact" between the U.S. and Iranian military about the hotline.
Fadavi said that the hotline would be unnecessary if the U.S. would just leave the Persian Gulf altogether where its presence, Fadavi said, is "illegitimate and makes no sense," Iranian Fars News Agency reported.
"They want to have a hotline so that in case of tension, we can settle it but we believe that if they are not deployed in the region, no tension will occur," he said.
Sayyari's announcement also came the same day another top Iranian military official said the country had mass-produced and supplied the Iranian navy with new "anti-ship cruise missiles" with a range of over 124 miles.
The Fars News Agency said Iranian officials "have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes and should not be perceived as a threat to any other country."
Earlier this year, two Iranian naval ships crossed through Egypt's Suez Canal, the nation's first venture through the canal in three decades, during a trip into the Mediterranean and on to Syria.
The U.S. territorial sea generally extends 12 nautical miles, or nearly 14 miles, off the shore, according to the U.S. Office of Coast Survey.
ABC News' Luis Martinez, Kirit Radia and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.
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