Sunday morning features an attempt by international media to assist Iran’s tough-talk propaganda with headlines like “Warships Sailing Towards US Borders“.

Last month, Iranian naval commanders declared that they were sending a “fleet of warships” — consisting of a destroyer and a helicopter-carrier — to the Atlantic Ocean. The “fleet” would cover 25,000 nautical kilometers in three months.

The world’s media paid little attention then, but Rear Admiral Afshin Rezaei Haddad stepped up the rhetoric on Saturday: “For the first time, Iran’s Northern Naval Fleet is moving towards the US maritime border.” The commander said the two vessels have entered the Atlantic Ocean off the southern coast of South Africa.

Fars News, the outlet of the Revolutionary Guards, converted the announcement into “senior Iranian Navy commanders announced on Saturday that the country has sent several fleets of warships to the US maritime borders”. It gave no detail of the “several fleets”.

Haddad did not establish the route taking the “fleet” just off the American coast, but that did not check the excitement of Al Jazeera or Politico, which also featured, “Iran Sending Warships Close to U.S. Borders“.

Perhaps the most over-reactive headline is in the Christian Science Monitor: “Iran Warships: Why Are They Going to US Coast?” The article never attempts to answer the question — given that it has no information about a coastal appearance — but, of course, it’s the provocation that matters.

Meanwhile, Fars News, having expanded the “fleet” story, was not resting on its success. Sunday morning’s English-language site also features, “Iran Combines Military Hi-Tech to Hunt Enemy Vessels in Persian Gulf” and “Iran Unveils New Video Game: ‘Battle in Gulf of Aden (2)’”.

Juan Cole adds context, as well as the video featured in this post:

(Iran) has three destroyers….One of the three is 50 years old and was recently somewhat refurbished….

Most of its “naval” craft are just little speed boats deployed off the Iranian coast in the Persian Gulf….

So you could have had an even more dramatic headline– “Iran sends one third of its destroyers into the Atlantic.”

Iran’s annual military budget had been nearly $8 billion a few years ago, which is tiny and puts it in the league of Norway or Singapore. But with sanctions biting, it has fallen to $5 bn a year. This is Denmark and Belgium territory.

The US annual military budget is around $700 bn. Israel’s is nearly $15 bn, though this is deceptive because the US gives it stuff.