Iran

Will "Straits of Hormuz Incident" Be on Schoolchildren's Lips 30 Years From Now?

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Some complications from the Australian Herald-Sun and USA Today in the "Iran was trying to start a war in the Gulf" story. Upshot: Iran has conflicting video and audio; Navy admits it can't be sure the provocative audio was actually coming from the supposedly suspicious-acting Iranian boats.

Preemptive strike to commenters who like to read more into short posts than they are saying: My linking to these stories does not mean I think they definitively settle the question of what happened or its meaning.

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  1. But doesn’t your title suggest that it is a big lie by the US Navy?

  2. I’ll take the US Navy’s word over Iran’s, thanks. And I’m I supposed to care whether the audio was coming directly from the boat, or from somebody in a bunker in Iran?

    “SUPPOSEDLY suspicious-acting Iranian boats”? Really?

  3. Will “Straits of Hormuz Incident” Be on Schoolchildren’s Lips 30 Years From Now?

    Yes, but it will be on their lips in Farsi.

  4. Doherty is obviously on the take from Big Islamofascism.

  5. I’ve known a few Persian ladies (hot, also nuts) and from what I’ve been told the Iranian government is pretty much a bunch of crazy assholes, but they have little to no influence on the people that live there. The demographics skew young and most of them are resentful of the crazies in charge. The worst thing we could do is galvanize the population against us by declaring war on a country that is probably heading toward a peaceful revolution.

    So yeah, the whole hyping hostilities thing is pretty scary.

  6. Iranian video doesn’t ring true to me: the US officer on the audio doesn’t sound authentic. But what do I know?

    Opportunity to make Sean Connery/Red October/Trainspotting impersonation: “Have you got it in your sshhights?”

  7. This is just a minor testing of defenses type of incident.

    The audio is not that relevant and only adds to the seriousness of the provocation. It’s clear from the US Navy video that the boats were way too close, well within range of small arms, and this is provocative considering what happened to the USS Cole. You remember that right; a Navy ship was peacefully refueling in a friendly country’s port and 8 sailors were killed and, in true diplomatic fashion, Clinton did absolutely nothing at all to retaliate.

    Incidentally, and I mean this out of genuine curiosity, do libertarians think free countries should cooperate to preserve open sea lanes from piracy and esoteric territorial claims that interfere with commerce? The liberty-leaning 19th Century Americans and Britons thought so.

  8. Who’s provoking who here anyway… WTF would we do to foreign warships patrolling off the coast of California?

  9. whether the audio was coming directly from the boat

    My guess is that a couple of stoned U.S. seamen were having some fun in the radio room.

  10. WTF would we do to foreign warships patrolling off the coast of California?

    Ve haf vays of makink zem disappear

  11. They should have sonic weapons like cruise ships use to repel pirates.

    Broken eardrums, severe pain and/or disorientation is not the stuff of which great martyrs are made.

  12. They should have sonic weapons like cruise ships use to repel pirates.

    This is the first I’ve herd of this. I Googled it and all I have to say is “teh awesum!”

  13. The Pentagon/Navy themsleves have admitted that the video and audio were separate..that the audio came from “somwhere” and they put them together.

    Many Farsi speakers hav said the accent is very un-Iranian. I agree with Ed. I was reminded of that quip fom Reagan when he thought the mic was off, “We start bombing in five minutes”. Borat also comes to mind.

    Is WWIII going to start because of some unidentified chatter on channel 16? Especially chatter that certainly didn’t come from the small open boats. The ambient noise is in no way like that of a small boat with outboards.

    As for “suicide bombers” and “remember the Cole”. Anyone else even notice the crew on those small boats were wearing life jackets? Standard gear, implying a wish to live.

    And as also been noted, if Iranian ships were that close, say in the waters between Florida and Cuba or the Bahamas, you bet your sweet ass we’d be sending more than glorified zodiacs to buzz them.

  14. The real lesson here is not who is telling the truth. It’s the fact that neither side really wanted start a war.

    I don’t trust either the U.S. military or Iran to tell the truth. However, with our technology, we can lie more skillfully.

  15. As for “suicide bombers” and “remember the Cole”. Anyone else even notice the crew on those small boats were wearing life jackets? Standard gear, implying a wish to live.

    Or implying a wish to appear non-threatening. Couldn’t have been that?

  16. I retract my comment, I thought you were referring to the Cole bombers. Apologies.

  17. The worst thing we could do is galvanize the population against us by declaring war on a country that is probably heading toward a peaceful revolution.

    They were already headed in that direction before our jackass CIC decided to give a speech labeling Iran part of the “Axis of Evil” prior to our occupying the countries on either side of it. Think how Bush’s–or any president’s–domestic support would increase if China were to occupy Canada and Mexico shortly after the Chinese head of state gave a speech calling the USA the font of evil in the world? Yeah, that’s the same boost I expect we’ll soon be giving the Iranian theocracy.

  18. Them Iranians didn’t screw with the Brits, neither.

  19. stonymonster…

    A desire to appear non-threatening? Perhaps, but more likely just SOP for any mariner. It’s been awhile since I was on a boat that had Coast Guard boardings, but they always wore them, though now they may wear flotation suits.

    Did any of these small boats cross the bow of the American ships? Have you read the comments from some of the actual naval officers in the area? It wasn’t the naval officers that were having a cow over this, it was the admin that pushed this really silly video/audio combo…oh I remember the other thing I was reminded of…the Daily Show, when some fakey Arab accent is used over a video.

    It’s embarrassing really that the admin (right at the time that Bush is in the ME, natch) should release this sloppy mix-up to bolster his intent to further isolate Iran from it’s neighbours. The amateurish nature of the vid/audio is ridiculous. Someone just phoned this one in.

  20. REMEMBER THE MAINE!

  21. Drawn: I believe that the US ship was in international waters – this is a very heavily travelled area, crucial to international trade. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong cos I’m too lazy to look up confirmation at the moment. Thus, if a ship were cruising in international waters near Florida and doing nothing provacative, I’m guessing we’d do – nothing.

  22. Unidentified Voice A: Your bombs exploding…
    [Unidentified giggling]
    Unidentified Voice A: Your [coughing, giggling] big hairy bombs…
    Unidentified Voice B: Here!
    [Unidentified giggling]
    Unidentified Voice C: Dude, don’t bogart it!
    Unidentified Voice A: We have Britney Spears…
    [coughing, giggling]

  23. Hello, Gulf of Tonkin, Hello.

  24. Really – an armada of Persian warships shows up 50 miles off the coast of Long Beach California(an important international shipping port), says they’re just policing the area against pirates, interrogates vessels coming in and out or neighbors, and we just let them hang out? Unlikely.

  25. should read:
    interrogates vessels coming in and out of our neighbors’ waters

  26. Incidentally, and I mean this out of genuine curiosity, do libertarians think free countries should cooperate to preserve open sea lanes from piracy and esoteric territorial claims that interfere with commerce? The liberty-leaning 19th Century Americans and Britons thought so.

    This one does.

  27. drawnasunder,

    There is much to be said for rights of way. The difference between a convoy passing peacefully through the only means to get somewhere else and a convoy sitting somewhere specific is massive in both intent and practice.

    Similarly, a protest marching down the street in front of your house to go protest somewhere else is very different from a protest stationed on the sidewalk in front of your house.

    It goes back to Roach’s question…

    Incidentally, and I mean this out of genuine curiosity, do libertarians think free countries should cooperate to preserve open sea lanes from piracy and esoteric territorial claims that interfere with commerce?

    As J sub D says: Yes, they do.

  28. Roach,

    I know you’re a troll, but just for grins, who should the US have declared war against after the Cole blew up?

  29. I know you’re a troll, but just for grins, who should the US have declared war against after the Cole blew up?

    TERRAH!

  30. Thus, if a ship were cruising in international waters near Florida and doing nothing provacative, I’m guessing we’d do – nothing.

    We’d monitor activity with air assets or possibly a tattletale (escorting warship). Doing stupid shit shown in the video, nah. The Iranians have to know that if they attacked a U.S. ship in an international strait, they would no longer send any oil out by tanker.

    BTW, I’d like to bring our troops that are scatterd around the world home as well. One of the reasons for having a Navy is showing the flag, and first response in a crisis. TheInfluence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 by A. T. Mahan is a very good book to read concerning these matters.

  31. Retaliation doesn’t always require a declaration of war, but how about, I don’t know, attacking the perepetrators: al Qaeda? And how about sending in some SF troops to Afghanistan to kill them in their training camps? And how about rounding up and kicking out or detaining illegal aliens from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Arab world?

    I realize most of what we did post 9/11 would not have been politically feasible at that time, but it seems to me pretty logical that you do something when your troops are killed.

    And, I don’t think everyone who disagrees with you all and defends his arguments is a Troll. Dissent does not a Troll make.

    Whinging about how our ships don’t belong in the Gulf and about the Trilateral Commission is not the same thing as having a coherent theory of libertarian foreingn policy. To those who defended the defense of sea lanes, thanks for at least making sense. To everyone else, you need to grow up.

    As for what we’d do if ships were on our door step, we’d do what we did when Soviet Bombers were on our door step and when Soviet supply ships were going to Cuba. We’d intercept them and monitor them in international waters. History sometimes helps you avoid hypothetical and unsupportable parades of horribles based on abstract reasoning in a vacuum.

  32. To everyone else, you need to grow up.

    Who are you talking about?

  33. The mighty Persian Navy appears to consist of my grandpa’s fishing boat.

    The Pentagon needs to outsource its propaganda to the pros. Maybe they could CGI something more impressive in there. A oil tanker full of orcs or something. I dunno.

  34. So it appears all the WoMD apologists, who really, really, really believed Iraq was mere seconds away from annihilating the US, are just as ready to fall for the “Iran is mere seconds away from annihilating the US” bit.
    Some people just won’t learn.

  35. Roach,

    History also makes you more cautious about doing rash things in reaction to extraordinary events. You propose that we should have lashed out, but you have no evidence we were ready at that time to lash out and pursue an expensive international campaign.

  36. Maybe it really is a conspiracy? The way you can tell is if you are able to fold fiat money into an image of the event, of course.

  37. I’ve known a few Persian ladies (hot, also nuts)

    When you’re not at work, look up one Aylar Lie. Boioioioioioing.

  38. They were fucking speedboats. Yes, it is REMOTELY possible that the Iranian government dug up a suicide squad, loaded their boats with their most powerful explosives, and sent them to ram US naval ships.

    If they were lucky, they might even have sunk one. They’ve have killed a number of sailors.

    And then what? They could only do it ONCE, after that the US will gun down fuckind speedboats from 5 miles away. And the Iranian Navy, what there is of it, would be sunk before fucking lunch.

    So what’s the Master plan here?

    Step 1, maybe sink a single US navy vessel.
    Step 2, ???
    Step 3, Profit?

    It was the usual sort of ballwaving shit that always happens. It wasn’t a “Dry run”, it wasn’t a threat, it was macho posturing. The US Captains apparently ignored them, and were right to do so.

    The Pentagon later tried to make some hay about it, rightly figuring some Americans are so stupid that they’d consider a bunch of speedboats a massive threat to the US Navy.

  39. “Hell…. We are going to have to fight them sooner or later…. Why not do it now while our Army is intact and we can have their hind end kicked back into Russia Iran in three months? We can do it easily with the help of the German Iraqi troops we have, if just arm them and take them with us. They hate the bastards.”

    “You don’t have to get all mixed up in it at all if you are so damn soft about it and scared of your rank – just let me handle it down there. In ten days I can have enough incidents happen to have us a war with those sons of bitches and make it look like their fault.”

    – George S. Patton
    From Patton: A Genius for War, page 763

  40. The worst thing we could do is galvanize the population against us by declaring war on a country that is probably heading toward a peaceful revolution.

    The history of peaceful revolutions in that part of the world is pretty thin.

    As for “suicide bombers” and “remember the Cole”. Anyone else even notice the crew on those small boats were wearing life jackets?

    They were wearing bulky orange jackets. It would be hard to tell if they were stuffed with kapok or C-4.

    Standard gear, implying a wish to live.

    Navigating an inflatable rubber boat around a moving warship (or any other ship that size) indicates the opposite.

    Note that the Navy neither fired at the boats, nor ran one down. I.e. the officers in charge did not allow themselves to be provoked. Professionals all.

    The US Captains apparently ignored them,

    I would quibble “ignored” is the wrong word. No captain ignores anything in his part of the ocean. “Remained aloof,” perhaps.

  41. Iran has conflicting video and audio

    Iran has a few minutes of video that could have been taken before any run on our ships. Its not conflicting. Hell, its not even inconsistent. Haven’t heard the audio, but really, what proof could there possibly be that it is a full contemparaneous account of what actually went down?

    The mighty Persian Navy appears to consist of my grandpa’s fishing boat.

    I believe boats of that size can mount anti-ship missiles.

    So what’s the Master plan here?

    Lemme help you out:

    Step 1, maybe sink a single US navy vessel, definitely destabilize the flow of oil through the Straits.
    Step 2, >???Oil prices skyrocket, Euros and Chinese with no ability to do anything in the Straits pursue “diplomatic options” like crazy
    Step 3, Profit?!!!!!

    All that aside, I have no opinion on what actually happened out there, other than it appears the Iranians did something monumentally stupid, and the USN did not.

  42. I didn’t say we should have done anything. I trust the commanders and agree they were restrained. The Iranians–whose revolutionary guard has apparently taken over control of naval vessels in the Gulf–is also testing us and being provocative.

    So, if we think war and overreaction is bad, but assholes messing with sea lanes is bad too. As such, I think we, who have a huge conventional advantage over the Iranians, should continue to escort friendly vessels and light up any Iranian naval vessels that try to stop us. And, if they shoot at us, I think we should conventionally destroy every naval vessel and air base in Iran. We can do this easily with minimal casualties and no land commitment; I think this should be apparent based on the similar operations we did against Iraq in the late 90s that. Since we can do this so easily and without casualties, what is wrong with it since, it seems everyone is agreed, asshole rouge nations should not prevent free movemetn in international airspace and seas.

    The analog would be Reagan’s rough treatment of the Libyans after their bullshit Line of Death in the Gulf of Sidra in 1984.

  43. Since we can do this so easily and without casualties, what is wrong with it since, it seems everyone is agreed, asshole rouge nations should not prevent free movemetn in international airspace and seas.

    Because, so far, no rogue nation has yet prevented or threatened to prevent free movement in international airspace or waters?

    Just a guess.

  44. Because, so far, no rogue nation has yet prevented or threatened to prevent free movement in international airspace or waters?

    Well, except for Iran kidnapping the British sailors. And yes, Britain says they were in international waters and Iran says that they weren’t. I don’t think it’s unlikely that the Iranians were lying, and looking to stir up trouble, and the Brits by failing to put up any kind of resistance whatsover made themselves easy and useful hostages.

  45. If you mean “useful” in the “what the hell have you done: now we have to figure out some face saving way to give them back” sense, then I agree.

    If you mean “free movement in international waters” in the “the Straits of Hormuz extends all the way to the Shatt al-Arab” sense, then I disagree.

    Points I make above about rights of way versus loitering are important. The Iranian capture of the RN personnel may have been a lot of things, but it was not an example of, in Roach’s words, failing to “preserve open sea lanes from piracy and esoteric territorial claims that interfere with commerce.”

  46. They were fucking speedboats. Yes, it is REMOTELY possible that the Iranian government dug up a suicide squad, loaded their boats with their most powerful explosives, and sent them to ram US naval ships.

    If they were lucky, they might even have sunk one. They’ve have killed a number of sailors.

    Actually, the Iran Navy has developed extensive naval swarming tactics.

    I think the U.S. is right to be concerned about what happened, but I also think the U.S. is blowing it out of proportion. There was no reason for those speedboats to do what they did, but if you’re going to blow up a couple of ships, you don’t announce it over radio first. Some good coverage of the event over here

  47. I think this was serious. I think Iran could some day be a major threat to peace. I also think the neoconservatives are looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran and are using moderately aggressive naval tactics best dealt with by commanders on the scene as a potential cassus belli to deal with, not existing WMD, but rather the potential future threat a future Iran with now nonexistent weapons may pose.

    Iran can and should be dealt with by the United States sucking up to the Russians and Chinese who can get their main arms customer and oil supplier (in China’s case) in line.

  48. Actually, the Iran Navy has developed extensive naval swarming tactics.

    Doesn’t work if you see it coming, and one thing the US Navy has going for it is about 85 million ways to see large numbers of ships and light aircraft in a VERY large radius around them.

    Satellites, air radar, all the sorts of good stuff we practice so much.

    Frankly it just means the US has to drop a lot more ordinance to destroy them all rather than blow up a much smaller number of more conventioanl ships. But with two carriers in the region, it’s really not a problem.

  49. Roach,

    I am still curious who you are talking about when you say…

    To everyone else, you need to grow up.

  50. you mean “useful” in the “what the hell have you done: now we have to figure out some face saving way to give them back” sense, then I agree.

    Yeah, you might be right. I remember reading all the different takes on the British incident and wondering who was right – those who said it was good PR for Iran and helped Ahmadinijad (TLTLUS)* score points with his hardcore nutjob constituency, or those who said that the Mullahs who actually run things were probably furious with the hotheads who started the whole thing. There’s really no way to tell. I do think it was an unqualified PR disaster for the Brits though, not least because of the way several of the sailors behaved – the one who cried because his “hosts” told him he looked like Mr. Bean was my favorite.

    TLTLUS = too lazy to look up spelling. I think I just made it up.

  51. I have to think the Iranians were just yanking our chains in this case. The proper way to close constricted waters is with mines and shore-launched missiles, not speedboats.

  52. So what is the truth about this incident?

  53. o yeh and:

    GOOGLE Nick Berg

  54. Yeah, lets just wait until we have a bunch of sunken ships before we respond. Yeah, thats the ticket. Then we can sue their pants off!

    ***

    There is a reason American military officers express grim concern over the tactics used by Iranian sailors last weekend: a classified, $250 million war game in which small, agile speedboats swarmed a naval convoy to inflict devastating damage on more powerful warships.

    In the days since the encounter with five Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz, American officers have acknowledged that they have been studying anew the lessons from a startling simulation conducted in August 2002. In that war game, the Blue Team navy, representing the United States, lost 16 major warships – an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious vessels – when they were sunk to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in an attack that included swarming tactics by enemy speedboats.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/12/washington/12navy.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

  55. In that war game

    how many of its own ships would the Navy have to have its faux Iranians sink in such an exercise to get McCain elected in 2008?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Liberty_incident

  56. Good thing nobody wants to molest our navy and cause a ruckus, otherwise I would suspect this was real [/sarcasim]

  57. I still want to know why the libertarians are so anti-military and indifferent to countries and groups that kill our soldiers. Do you consider yourselves part of the same nation, where we feel some fellow feeling and collective pride in our armed forces, and, more important, feel some collective anger when people are killed.

    I mean, what would libertarians say on Pearl Harbor Day: not my problem; no one asked me if I wanted to retaliate for what the Japanese just did.

    This is why libertarians whether in the guise of rogue Republicans like Paul or nutcases like Harry Brown never amount to shit and only attract acne-faced losers who have a beef with authority, all no doubt because Dad gave them a curfew in HS and they’re still pissed off about it.

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