Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Saturday lauded the "momentous naval mission" that took two Iranian warships to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, amid heightened tensions with the West.
Khamenei hailed the return of the fleet comprising Makran forward base and moudge-class destroyer Sahand following its four-month voyage as "authoritative".
The fleet, which set out from the port city of Bandar Abbas in May, traveled some 45,000km (28,000 nautical miles), through northern Indian Ocean, North and South Atlantic Ocean, and the Petersburg port in Russia, where it took part in a naval parade in June.
In the past, the Iranian Navy fleet had undertaken missions to the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the first time Iranian warships sailed into the Atlantic Ocean.
In June, shortly after the warships sailed into the Atlantic, Iran's top military commander Abdolrahim Mousavi called it a "turning point".
Another senior army commander, Habibollah Sayyari, said the mission had increased Iran's "strategic depth" in the sea, describing it the "longest and the most challenging mission".
Earlier this week, Iran's newly appointed Navy chief Shahram Irani said Tehran seeks to maintain its presence in the international waters "to guarantee the security of its cargo vessels and oil tankers".
Pertinently, the naval mission has raised many eyebrows in the US, as some feared the vessels would be shipping arms to Venezuela.
"We're monitoring this deployment of these two ships," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in June. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had also expressed concern over the prospect of Iranian vessels dispatching arms to Latin America.
Both Tehran and Caracas face US sanctions, which has created hurdles in their oil trade. Some of their ships and cargo have been seized in the past in international waters.