Can you say casus belli?
Five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats "harassed and provoked" three U.S. Navy ships early Sunday in international waters, the U.S. military said Monday, calling the encounter a "significant" confrontation.
An Iranian official, however, said it was not a serious incident, the state-run news agency IRNA reported.
U.S. military officials said the incident occurred early Sunday morning in the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow shipping channel leading in and out of the Persian Gulf.
They said that as the USS Hopper, the USS Port Royal and the USS Ingraham were entering the Persian Gulf, five Iranian boats approached them at high speed and swarmed them.
The Iranian boats made "threatening" moves toward the U.S. ships and in one case came within 200 yards of one of them, the U.S. officials said.
The U.S. Navy also 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," the U.S. military officials told CNN.
When the U.S. ships heard that radio transmission, they took up their gun positions and officers were "in the process" of giving the order to fire when the Iranians abruptly turned away, the U.S. officials said.
After the radio transmission, one of the Iranian boats dropped white boxes into the water in front of the U.S. ships, the officials said. It was not clear what was in the boxes, the officials said.
No shots were fired, and no one was injured.
Lambert headlines his response: "Republicans Work from the Usual Playbook, Iranian "Attack" Reported Just Before Primary":
Obviously, as the world’s only remaining superpower, we need to react with total hysteria. ...
I find it perfectly plausible that the Iranians would announce their intentions to blow up a U.S. naval carrier in international waters, don't you? Of course, there are always skeptics:
With all the activity and tension in the area, it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody got too close to somebody else and nearly started something by accident. However, this part seems bizarre:A radio transmission from one of the Iranian ships said, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes,” CNN reported, citing a U.S. official.
That seems like a weird thing for somebody to broadcast. If they are planning to, say, ram an explosives-packed boat into a ship, why announce it? If they are just cruising around, seeing how close people will come to a line, not actually planning to attack, why send a message like that? Until we hear more, I’m assuming this allegation is bullsh!t, a way to beat the war drums.
Which the wingnuts are already rushing to do ...
Undoubtedly, Iran wanted to test American resolve, but could not isolate a small enough vessel to pursue a similar mission. Instead, they basically did a probe to see how far they could go before provoking an armed response. This information could prove useful for Iran's terrorist partners in Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in the Gulf and elsewhere. It looks suspiciously like a dry run for a repeat of the USS Cole bombing in Aden seven years ago.
This cannot be allowed to happen again. The next time patrol boats approach American vessels and threaten attack, one of them has to head to the bottom of the gulf. ...
... while indulging in gales of laughter at those silly liberals who say they are beating the drums for war:
How much do you want to bet that at least one lefty politician, colmnist, or lefty blogger will say this story doesn’t pass the smell test and accuse Bush administration “warmongers” of trying to “make up more stuff” about Iran in order to start a war with them?
Heavens, what a thought. This is a clear act of
Of course, history has never been the Bush groupies' strong suit. The fact is, the U.S. has been trying to provoke war with Iraq for well over a year now. Last February, Newsweek reported that the Bush administration, which already had two aircraft carrier strike groups on their way to the Persian Gulf at the time, was planning to send a third one. Michael Hirsh and Maziar Bahari wrote:
... At least one former White House official contends that some Bush advisers secretly want an excuse to attack Iran. "They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for," says Hillary Mann, the administration's former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs. U.S. officials insist they have no intention of provoking or otherwise starting a war with Iran, and they were also quick to deny any link to Sharafi's kidnapping. But the fact remains that the longstanding war of words between Washington and Tehran is edging toward something more dangerous. A second Navy carrier group is steaming toward the Persian Gulf, and NEWSWEEK has learned that a third carrier will likely follow. Iran shot off a few missiles in those same tense waters last week, in a highly publicized test. With Americans and Iranians jousting on the chaotic battleground of Iraq, the chances of a small incident's spiraling into a crisis are higher than they've been in years.
In the current incident, Iran claims the confrontation was a simple case of mistaken identity. That may or may not be true. But as Cernig points out, you don't have to believe Iran is being 100 percent truthful to recognize that it's very unlikely Iran's motives were as sinister as they are being depicted [boldface emphasis mine]:
Now, I don't believe for a second that the IRGC can't recognise "Navy cruiser USS Port Royal, destroyer USS Hopper and frigate USS Ingraham" from more than 200 yards. But I repeat that for [there] to be an ulterior motive behind this otherwise common incident, someone would have had to tell an IGRC boat skipper to make a very foolhardy radio call which the US has no transcript for. And I just don't believe that level of dumb machiavellism either. No, some out-of-order hotdog who will now find himself commanding the IRGC's bathtub on an icy mountain lake is a far more likely explanation.