By Andrew Gray Fri Jan 11, 6:02 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A tense encounter betweenships and Iranian boats in the Gulf shows poses a threat and the United States is ready to counter it, the top officer said on Friday.
"There's no doubt in my mind that shots would have been fired, had the situation demanded it," said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of theJoint Chiefs of Staff.
"The incident ought to remind us all just how real is the threat posed by Iran and just how ready we are to meet that threat if it comes to it," Mullen told reporters.
"We will defend ourselves and our ships, and we will do so with deadly force if need be," he said at the.
According to the United States, five Iranian speedboats maneuvered aggressively close to three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday and the U.S. ships received a radio transmission threatening an explosion.
On Friday, the Pentagon released what it said was full, unedited video of the encounter, lasting around 36 minutes.
The United States has formally complained about the incident. Iranian officials have dismissed U.S. objections, saying the encounter was normal and the Iranian boats were merely trying to identify the U.S. vessels.
The incident was another sign of tension between the United States and Iran, at odds over a range of issues including Tehran's nuclear program and its alleged role in Iraq.
A Navy spokeswoman said U.S. and Iranian vessels had been involved in two other incidents in the Strait of Hormuz in the past month.
On December 19, the USS Whidbey Island fired warning shots to deter a small Iranian craft and on December 22, three small Iranian craft that had been shadowing the USS Carr turned away after blasts of the American ship's whistle, the spokeswoman said.
The Strait of Hormuz is the most prominent potential "choke point" for crude oil flows, handling 17 million barrels per day, or two-fifths of globally traded oil.
CLOSE TO OPENING FIRE
U.S. officials have said U.S. sailors were close to opening fire in Sunday's encounter before the Iranian boats moved away. They have said they believe the boats came from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"I'd much rather prevent a war than fight one. We'd all prefer Iran to take a more productive, positive role in the region. And I support the use of economic and diplomatic measures to help bring that about," Mullen said.
"But our own military restraint in dealing with that problem should in turn never be confused for a lack of capability."
Some U.S. commentators have suggested the U.S. sailors should have opened fire and their restraint will be interpreted by Iran as a sign of weakness. But Mullen, a former head of the, said the crews' actions had been "exactly right."
The United States and Iran had already issued video footage to support their conflicting accounts of the incident.
The United States also has released the recording of a message it says was received by the U.S. ships. "You will explode after ... minutes," a heavily accented voice on the recording says.
U.S. officials initially said the audio was believed to have come from one of the Iranian boats but they have since said they are not certain of its exact origin.
"I can't shed any light as far as the radio transmission is concerned," Mullen said. "If you're out there on the bridge, it's hard to tell where (radio transmissions are) coming from."
(Reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Eric Walsh)
Pentagon backtracks on Iran threat
Published: Jan. 11, 2008 at 5:11 PM
The two-sentence message, on a channel used by ships and other radio operators in the area, was in accented English. Iranians and speakers of Farsi told The Washington Post that the accent did not sound Iranian.
"I am coming to you," the voice said. "You will explode in a few minutes."
The message was heard as five Iranian small speedboats operated by the Revolutionary Guard were behaving in what U.S. officials say was a provocative manner. But the Pentagon now says that the two events may have been unconnected.
"It could have been a threat aimed at some other nation or a myriad of other things," Rear Adm. Frank Thorp IV, a Navy spokesman, said Thursday.
The Pentagon released a 4-minute videotape of the incident on Tuesday that included the radio message. Iran released a rival version on Thursday that suggests the boat crews were simply trying to identify the ships.
|IRGC: US Navy audio, video fake |
Presstv : Wed, 09 Jan 2008 11:51:52
A member of the Navy Forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) told Press TV on Wednesday that the footage released by the US Navy had been compiled using file pictures and the audio had been fabricated.
Earlier Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said the incident was a normal identification request by the Iranian side.
Hosseini explained that exchanging messages to identify ships in the Persian Gulf is routine.
Washington earlier claimed that IRGC speedboats harassed three US Navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday.
The US Navy later released footage purportedly showing Iranian boats menacing US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.