World Affairs Brief, January 11, 2008. Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World.

Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Joel Skousen’s World Affairs Brief


According to Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, “three U.S. ships had been in international waters passing through the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday when they were approached by five fast boats, at least some of which were visibly armed…. The boats made some aggressive maneuvers against our vessels and indicated some hostile intent…. the speed of the Iranian boats and their distance from the U.S. Navy vessels demonstrated potentially hostile intent. Bridge-to-bridge radio communications between the Iranian vessels and the U.S. Navy ships reinforced this impression.”

I’ve seen the videos of the speedboats and they certainly aren’t bristling with any visible arms capable of doing damage to a destroyer. I think the Pentagon is exaggerating the threat. Certainly, there was reason to be ready to fire should one of the boats make a run toward their ship, but none got that close. The Iranians normally run their boats this fast while circling US ships since they are wary of a provoked attack and don’t want to be an easy target. Whitman said further that the Navy received a radio transmission that “officials believe came from the Iranian boats.’ The transmission said, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes,” I’ve listened to the transmission and it sounds suspicious. What member of the elite Revolutionary Guards would be stupid enough to broadcast his intentions in such a provocative manner if he really intended to ram one of our ships? Iran may have a radical and outspoken president, but its military is very professional and not about to provoke a retaliation from a nation (US) that is itching for an excuse to attack.

To make matters worse for the US story, the Iranians released their own recordings of the incident as well as the ship to ship communications with the US Navy confirming that they were checking on the ship’s identity as has been their regular procedure in the straits. The transmissions are obviously authentic, with proper military protocol. I think we narrowly averted going to war with Iran, only because the Navy skipper exercised restraint and did not rise to the bait of the agent provocateurs.

I don’t think the US Navy was trying to provoke an incident and neither were the Iranian speed boats. But unbeknownst to both, there were agent provocateurs (directed by dark side elements of our own government) trying to get the Navy to lose its nerve (based on the phony threat transmissions) and open fire, producing another Gulf of Tonkin incident. ABC’s Jonathan Karl quoted a Pentagon official as saying the Iranian boats were “a heartbeat from being blown up.” Nonsense! I agree with IPS News that “Bush administration officials seized on the incident to advance the portrayal of Iran as a threat and to strike a more threatening stance toward Iran. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley declared Wednesday that the incident ‘almost involved an exchange of fire between our forces and Iranian forces.’ [a fact now disputed by Naval officers of the 5th fleet]. President George W. Bush declared during his Mideast trip Wednesday that there would be ‘serious consequences’ if Iran attacked U.S. ships and repeated his assertion that Iran is ‘a threat to world peace.'” The only thing such bellicose rhetoric proves is that the US is still looking for an incident to provoke a wider attack.

In similar manner during the early 60’s, President Lyndon Johnson used a reported North Vietnamese attack by patrol boats on American destroyers to justify an escalation of the Vietnam War. However, a detailed investigation by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) backed up by classified leaks, “demonstrates that not only is it not true, as [then US] secretary of defense Robert McNamara told Congress, that the evidence of an attack was ‘unimpeachable’, but that to the contrary, a review of the classified signals intelligence proves that ‘no attack happened that night.'”