The Iranian ship Makran is seen in this Maxar Technologies satellite image from early May in the Persian Gulf around Larak Island. The vessel appears to be loaded with seven small fast-attack boats on its deck.
CNN  — 

The Pentagon and US intelligence agencies are closely tracking two Iranian ships that Tehran claims are bound for Venezuela.

At the Pentagon and other agencies, officials said that at the moment the ships’ passage is not a concern, but they are being monitored and the intelligence community is working to assess what Iran’s intentions are. The two countries – both the subject of harsh US sanctions – are allies and trading partners that have helped each other withstand the American measures.

While it is still unclear if the ships are carrying any weapons, according to multiple US officials, satellite imagery reveals one of them is carrying the kind of small, fast-attack boats that Iran has used to harass US naval ships in the Persian Gulf. And if Iranian vessels gain the ability to access the Atlantic, analysts say it would be a significant step forward for the country’s navy, which has tried and failed to do so in the past.

Officials said the US has been monitoring the ships for approximately two weeks. The vessels have been off the east coast of Africa for the past several days. While they were initially expected to round the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the continent around June 9 to June 11, experts tracking their movement say that now they are not expected to arrive until July.

The Iranian ship Makran is seen in this Maxar Technologies satellite image from late April docked in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.  The boat appears to be loaded with seven small fast-attack boats on its deck.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, speaking generally about the possibility of any shipment of Iranian weapons to the Western Hemisphere, said that would be a “provocative act” and a threat to US allies.

“While DoD will not comment on intelligence matters, we would note that the delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and a threat to our partners in this hemisphere. As such we would reserve the right to take appropriate measures – in concert with our partners – to deter the delivery or transit of such weapons,” Kirby said in a statement to CNN.

On Wednesday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported that the deputy head of the national security and foreign policy commission of Iran’s Parliament had said that “the threat of Iranian vessels is a violation of international law, and if it continues in this way, the US Navy will certainly be in danger, and we can threaten American vessels in the waters of the region.”

One of the Iranian ships, a floating base named Makran, was seen in late April in satellite images from Maxar Technologies in the port of Bandar Abbas with seven small fast-attack boats on its deck. A smaller frigate is accompanying the Makran. Politico was first to report US concern about the ships.