At least two ships from Iran's small navy are making a high-seas voyage to Venezuela. One of them, the IRINS Makran, may have several small fast boats strapped to its deck, according to USNI News, the US Naval Institute's online news and analysis portal.
This matters because it will boost the ability of Venezuela to harass ships and also because it highlights that Iran's blue-water navy is capable of long-distance missions.
It has been a bad year for Iran's navy. The large Iranian ship Kharq sank last week after a devastating fire. The Iranian IRGC-linked spy ship Saviz was attacked in the Red Sea in April. Iran's submarines appear to be inoperable and in dry dock.
But it's not all bad news. Iran received a new ship, the Shahed Roudaki, in the past year, and the Makran is considered one of its largest ships, at 228 meters long. In February, the IRGC's navy received 340 new small vessels, some with drones.
So what's happening with the Venezuela mission? The Makran was last seen on April 28, USNI News reported. The ships are being monitored and may reach the Atlantic soon, Political media company Politico reported on June 2.
They may have reached the Atlantic last week, according to Politico.
"A spokesperson for the US National Security Council noted that Venezuela purchased weapons from Iran over a year ago, and warned that any new delivery of weapons 'would be a provocative act and a threat to our partners in this hemisphere," it reported.
"We would reserve the right to take appropriate measures – in concert with our partners – to deter the delivery or transit of such weapons," Politico quoted an official as saying.
Iran says it has a right to do as it pleases.
Israel had carried out attacks on a dozen Iranian ships headed for Syria, apparently carrying oil, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year. Three Israeli-owned ships were then damaged in or near the Gulf of Oman between February and March.
Iran's foray into the Atlantic is not exactly a monumental maritime event, and it pales in comparison to, say, the Battle of Jutland in World War I. The ships have no real firepower and are not like the Bismarck or German vice admiral Graf Von Spee's flagship, the armored cruiser SMS Scharnhorst, which made a long journey from Asia to South America during World War I.
Perhaps historically, the Iranian naval foray is similar to the journey of the Goeben and the Breslau, two German ships sent to the Ottoman Empire in August 1914 that encouraged Turkey to join the war against the allies.
But in the current case, Iran's ships, if they do make it to Venezuela, will be more of a curiosity. They may provide Tehran with some propaganda points if they don't sink on the way.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.