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Saturday, January 12, 2008

US - Iran Hormuz incident

Hormuz incident shows Iran a threat: top U.S. officer

By Andrew Gray Fri Jan 11, 6:02 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A tense encounter between U.S. Navy ships and Iranian boats in the Gulf shows Iran poses a threat and the United States is ready to counter it, the top U.S. military 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 the U.S. military's Joint 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 Pentagon.

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.


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 U.S. Navy, 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

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. defense officials say that a threatening radio message during an encounter between U.S. Navy vessels and Iranian boats may not have originated in Iran.

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.

© 2008 United Press International.

IRGC: US Navy audio, video fake
Presstv : Wed, 09 Jan 2008 11:51:52
IRGC says the US video of Sunday's incident in Hormuz Strait involving Iran patrol boats and US ships is archive footage and the audio is fake.

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.


History repeats itself in the Persian Gulf
Wed, 09 Jan 2008 21:10:59
An interview with Robert Fantina by Ismail Salami
Robert Fantina is a long-time activist for peace and social justice. Originally involved in the Dennis Kucinich presidential campaign in 2004, he eventually worked as a district organizer through on the Kerry campaign in Florida.

Following the 2004 presidential election he moved to Canada, where he now resides.

Robert Fantina is the author of "Desertion and the American Soldier, 1776-2006", a book which explores desertion, its rates, causes and penalties, from the American Revolution to the Iraqi Occupation.

Q. US officials claim that Iranian boats have harassed and provoked three US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, describing it as a provocative act. Do you think this is yet another excuse by Washington to justify their invasion of Iran?

A. I think that possibility cannot be dismissed. President George Bush has been making threatening gestures toward Iran for several years now, including it as part of the 'axis of evil' during his State of the Union address in 2002, and later sending warships into the area for 'war games.' When the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report recently stated that Iran ceased its nuclear weapons program four years ago, Mr. Bush was left without a reason to continue his march toward war with Iran. The alleged incident in the Strait of Hormuz will enable him to once again attempt to portray Iran has being the aggressor in the current tensions with the United States.

Q. Can you trace a similar incident in the history of American policies? How do you find an analogy between this incident and the incident in The Gulf of Tonkin some 44 years ago?

A. The similarities to the Gulf of Tonkin incident are alarming. On August 2, 1964 the US destroyer Maddox, on an espionage mission in the Gulf of Tonkin off the Vietnam coast, reported being fired on by North Vietnamese torpedo patrol boats. Two days later, the Maddox and another destroyer were again patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin. Instruments on the Maddox indicated that it was either attacked or was under attack, and both destroyers began firing back, with assistance from US air power.

It was less than 24 hours later when the captain concluded that there might not have been an attack. The pilot of a Crusader jet, James B. Stockdale, undertook a reconnaissance flight over the gulf that evening. He was asked if he saw any North Vietnamese attack vessels. In response he said: “Not a one. No boats, no wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat impacts, no torpedo wakes--nothing but black sea and American firepower.”
Yet this non-event was seen by the US Congress as an act of aggression against the United States, and caused Congress to authorize the first major escalation of the disastrous war in Vietnam.

One hopes that Congress will take a more studied approach to the current situation, but unfortunately that is not likely to occur. Members of Congress seem to believe that any careful review of circumstances involving alleged aggression by any other nation against the US will make them seem weak. One would think they would have learned, if not from the Gulf of Tonkin situation then from the Iraq War, that it is necessary to look beyond the sensational headlines and seek out the facts. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case.

Q. There have been some attempts to demonize Iran in the past. Is the new incident meant to follow the same old US policy?

A. This incident, or alleged incident, will certainly be used to attempt to convince US citizens that Iran is dangerous and poses a threat to the United States. Mr. Bush and others of his ilk may use this situation to prove to the world that they were right about Iran all along, that that nation seeks to destroy or at least harm American citizens, and that aggressive defensive actions must be taken.

It must be remembered that even after the NIE reported that Iran ceased its nuclear weapons program four years earlier, Mr. Bush said that that only proved that Iran was a threat to the US How he reached and justified that bizarre opinion is anybody's guess. In following this train of thought, Mr. Bush can say that this new situation in the Strait of Hormuz is further evidence of the danger the US faces from Iran.

Q. How will the Congress react to the incident?

A. As mentioned earlier, one would hope that Congress would look deeply into the situation to find the facts, instead of accepting a few sensational headlines as truth. But the US is in the middle of a protracted primary season, where the two, major party candidates for president will be selected. Many members of Congress are seeking to be those candidates. One of their main fears is appearing to be weak on terrorism, and it has been easy in the last several years to overcome that perception by making aggressive statements against Iraq and Iran. For many of these members of Congress, this current situation will enable them to continue to make dangerous statements that pander to the fears of some of the voters.

Q. The US government has a long history of violence and aggression including invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Does the Congress have equal blood on its hands as President Bush?

A. There is no question that Congress has been complicit in all of Mr. Bush's crimes. In the mid-term elections of 2006, the Republican Party, which had controlled Congress for most of this president's reign of terror, was ejected, and control given to the Democratic Party. Surveys indicated that the reason the voters removed the Republicans and installed the Democrats was the belief that the Democrats would end US involvement in the Iraq War. Since that time Congress has betrayed the will of the people, and has continued the war, despite several opportunities to withdraw funding and bring US troops home. So added to the crime of continuing an unwarranted, unjustified, imperial war, the current Congress has also betrayed the trust of the voters.


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