Thursday, January 10, 2008


There was something that just didn’t ring true when I first heard the report of Iran speedboats harassing a U.S. ship in the Strait of Hormuz. There was the video of small boats dashing all around and a grade B movie voice saying, “I am coming to you… You will explode after… minutes.” All of this happened at the time the U.S. President is in the Middle East, not only to work on getting Israelis and Palestinians to stop fighting, but also to isolate Iran.

As reported in The Ledge this morning, the list of those who are less than fully confident in the Pentagon’s video/audio mashup of aggressive maneuvers by Iranian boats near American warships in the Strait of Hormuz now includes the Pentagon itself.

Unnamed Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that the threatening voice heard in the audio clip, which was released on Monday night with a disclaimer that it was recorded separately from the video images and merged with them later, is not directly traceable to the Iranian military.

That undercuts one of the most menacing elements from the Pentagon’s assertion that Iranian forces threatened the Navy ships.

An article in this morning’s New York Times reports the Pentagon’s assessment of the audio:

The audio includes a heavily accented voice warning in English that the Navy warships would explode. However, the recording carries no ambient noise — the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind — that would be expected if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small boats that sped around the three-ship American convoy.

Pentagon officials said they could not rule out that the broadcast might have come from shore, or from another ship nearby, although it might have come from one of the five fast boats with a high-quality radio system.

Looking Back: Ironically, this weekend we were reminded of the 1964 purported North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers that helped lead to President Johnson’s sharp escalation of American forces in Vietnam. Documents on the Gulf of Tonkin incident were released by the National Security Agency in response to a "mandatory declassification" request from the Federation of American Scientists. Then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told Congress that the evidence of an attack was ‘unimpeachable.’ The released documents show that no attack happened that night.

I do not know what happened in the Strait of Hormuz this past weekend, but I am suspicious of our government’s initial account. It sounds like some in Pentagon are too. Call me naïve, but I still have a hard time believing that Robert Gates could be part of a fabricated account.

Why Iran would provoke an incident like this at this time is a lot harder for me to imagine than why our current President would seize the least pretext to generate fear at home. If you have a take that makes sense of the incident I would like to hear it.

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