The Alleged Iranian
'Speedboat Incident'
of January 6, 2008

 

 

The 'gunboat-incident-that-never-was'

 

 


Four articles

 

 

Note: To understand the possible implications of the "gunboat-incident-that-never-was," these four articles should be compared with the truth about the 'Vincennes Incident' [click on blue link] of July 3, 1988, paying particular attention to the provocative nature of the mission the Vincennes was on.  Also, as the fourth article below points out, there is a lot of similarity between the January 6, 2008, gunboat-incident-that-never-was and the fictitious event Lyndon B Johnson used to justify ramping up the Vietnam War. In August 1964, the U.S. claimed the North Vietnamese navy attacked two of their destroyers. Recent releases of previously classified information by the U.S. National Archives show conclusively that the U.S. government knew "no attack happened that night"; they just wanted a casus belli.

 

 


Contents

 

 

"U.S. charges Iranian boats 'harassed' U.S. Navy,"
Barbara Starr, CNN, January 7, 2008
   

"Official U.S. Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel,"
Gareth Porter,
IPS, January 10, 2008

   

"The U.S.–Iran Gunboat Incident: Was it a poorly executed fabrication?
And what was the reason for it?," David R. Davis, Jr., January 11, 2008

    

"Soaring rhetoric about democracy is swiftly choked to death by
petrol fumes," Johann Hari,

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. charges Iranian boats
'harassed' U.S. Navy

 
Barbara Starr

 

CNN 

January 7, 2008

 

 

Five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats "harassed and provoked" three U.S. Navy ships early Sunday [January 6, 2008] 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 guided missile destroyer USS Hopper, the guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal and the guided-missile frigate 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.

 

A Pentagon spokesman characterized the incident as "perplexing" and "cause for real concern."

 

"Such actions are dangerous and could have quickly escalated into something much worse," said Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary. "We see it as further evidence that Iran is unpredictable and remains a threat."

 

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman downplayed the incident, calling it "ordinary," IRNA reported. Mohammad Ali Hosseini said that similar incidents had occurred in the past between Iranian and American ships, and the issues were resolved as soon as the ships recognized each other, IRNA reported.

 

The Strait of Hormuz, which is in international waters, is near much of the world's oil supplies.

 

The White House urged Iran to refrain from "such provocative actions that could lead to a dangerous incident in the future," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

 

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States probably would not make a formal protest to Iran about the incident.

 

McCormack said, "I can't speak to their rationale, their reasoning, their motivations."

 

Iran and the United States do not have diplomatic relations. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Tehran, while Pakistan represents Iranian interests in Washington.

 

McCormack declined to comment further on the incident but said, "The U.S. will confront Iranian behavior where it seeks to do harm either to us or to our friends and allies in the region."

 

On Friday, the U.S. Navy announced the same team of naval ships had been searching in the Arabian Sea for a sailor missing for a day from the Hopper. The outcome of the search was not immediately known Monday.

 

In November the U.S. military reported that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps had taken command of Tehran's naval operations in the Persian Gulf.

 

The United States considers the Revolutionary Guard to be a major supporter of terrorist activity.

 

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have increased over the last few years. The U.S. has concerns about Iran's nuclear program and has accused Iran of supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq who target American forces.

 

In March, Iran detained 15 crew members of a British ship before releasing them after nearly two weeks. Iran alleged the British vessel strayed into Iranian waters -- an assertion Britain strongly denied.

 


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Official U.S. Version of Naval
Incident Starts to Unravel


Gareth Porter*

 

Inter Press Service (IPS)

January 10, 2008



 

Despite the official and media portrayal of the incident in the Strait of Hormuz early Monday morning as a serious threat to U.S. ships from Iranian speedboats that nearly resulted in a "battle at sea", new information over the past three days suggests that the incident did not involve such a threat and that no U.S. commander was on the verge of firing at the Iranian boats.

The new information that appears to contradict the original version of the incident includes the revelation that U.S. officials spliced the audio recording of an alleged Iranian threat onto to a videotape of the incident. That suggests that the threatening message may not have come in immediately after the initial warning to Iranian boats from a U.S. warship, as appears to do on the video.

Also unraveling the story is testimony from a former U.S. naval officer that non-official chatter is common on the channel used to communicate with the Iranian boats and testimony from the commander of the U.S. 5th fleet that the commanding officers of the U.S. warships involved in the incident never felt the need to warn the Iranians of a possible use of force against them.

Further undermining the U.S. version of the incident is a video released by Iran Thursday showing an Iranian naval officer on a small boat hailing one of three ships.

The Iranian commander is heard to say, "Coalition warship 73, this is Iranian navy patrol boat." He then requests the "side numbers" of the U.S. warships. A voice with a U.S. accent replies, "This is coalition warship 73. I am operating in international waters."

The dramatic version of the incident reported by U.S. news media throughout Tuesday and Wednesday suggested that Iranian speedboats, apparently belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy, had made moves to attack three U.S. warships entering the Strait and that the U.S. commander had been on the verge of firing at them when they broke off.

Typical of the network coverage was a story by ABC's Jonathan Karl quoting a Pentagon official as saying the Iranian boats "were a heartbeat from being blown up".

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". 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".

Central to the depiction of the incident as involving a threat to U.S. warships is a mysterious pair of messages that the sailor who heard them onboard immediately interpreted as saying, "I am coming at you...", and "You will explode after a few minutes." But the voice in the audio clearly said "I am coming to you," and the second message was much less clear.

Furthermore, as the New York Times noted Thursday, the recording carries no ambient noise, such as the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind, which should have been audible if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small Iranian boats.

A veteran U.S. naval officer who had served as a surface warfare officer aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Gulf sent a message to the New York Times on-line column "The Lede" Wednesday pointing out that in the Persian Gulf, the "bridge-to-bridge" radio channel used to communicate between ships "is like a bad CB radio" with many people using it for "hurling racial slurs" and "threats". The former officer wrote that his "first thought" was that the message "might not have even come from one of the Iranian craft".

Pentagon officials admitted to the Times that they could not rule out that the broadcast might have come from another source

The five Iran boats involved were hardly in a position to harm the three U.S. warships. Although Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman described the Iranian boats as "highly maneuverable patrol craft" that were "visibly armed," he failed to note that these are tiny boats carrying only a two- or three-man crew and that they are normally armed only with machine guns that could do only surface damage to a U.S. ship.

The only boat that was close enough to be visible to the U.S. ships was unarmed, as an enlarged photo of the boat from the navy video clearly shows.

The U.S. warships were not concerned about the possibility that the Iranian boats were armed with heavier weapons capable of doing serious damage. Asked by a reporter whether any of the vessels had anti-ship missiles or torpedoes, Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, Commander of the 5th Fleet, answered that none of them had either of those two weapons.

"I didn't get the sense from the reports I was receiving that there was a sense of being afraid of these five boats," said Cosgriff.

The edited Navy video shows a crewman issuing an initial warning to approaching boats, but the footage of the boats maneuvering provides no visual evidence of Iranian boats "making a run on U.S. ships" as claimed by CBS news Wednesday in its report based on the new video.

Vice Adm. Cosgriff also failed to claim any run toward the U.S. ships following the initial warning. Cosgriff suggested that the Iranian boat's maneuvers were "unduly provocative" only because of the "aggregate of their maneuvers, the radio call and the dropping of objects in the water".

He described the objects dropped by the Iranian boat as being "white, box-like objects that floated". That description indicates that the objects were clearly not mines, which would have been dark and would have sunk immediately. Cosgriff indicated that the ships merely "passed by them safely" without bothering to investigate whether they were explosives of some kind.

The apparent absence of concern on the part of the U.S. ships' commanding officers about the floating objects suggests that they recognized that the Iranians were engaging in a symbolic gesture having to do with laying mines.

Cosgriff's answers to reporters' questions indicated that the story promoted earlier by Pentagon officials that one of the U.S . ships came very close to firing at the Iranian boats seriously distorted what actually happened. When Cosgriff was asked whether the crew ever gave warning to the Iranian boats that they "could come under fire", he said the commanding officers "did not believe they needed to fire warning shots".

As for the report circulated by at least one Pentagon official to the media that one of the commanders was "close to firing", Cosgriff explained that "close to" meant that the commander was "working through a series of procedures". He added, "[I]n his mind, he might have been closing in on that point."

Despite Cosgriff's account, which contradicted earlier Pentagon portrayals of the incident as a confrontation, not a single news outlet modified its earlier characterization of the incident. After the Cosgriff briefing, Associated Press carried a story that said, " U.S. forces were taking steps toward firing on the Iranians to defend themselves, said the U.S. naval commander in the region. But the boats -- believed to be from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's navy -- turned and moved away, officials said."

That was quite different from what Cosgriff actually said.

In its story covering the Cosgriff briefing, Reuters cited "other Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity" as saying that "a U.S. captain was in the process of ordering sailors to open fire when the Iranian boats moved away" -- a story that Cosgriff had specifically denied.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.


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The U.S.–Iran Gunboat Incident:

 

Was it a poorly executed fabrication?
And what was the reason for it?

 

David R. Davis, Jr.

 

January 11, 2008



 

Is the United States government capable of lying and fabricating audio tracks to best fit its interests? Apparently so, according to many prominent news agencies. I was shocked to hear the news the other day that an Iranian gunboat had threatened to attack a U.S. Navy warship recently. How absurd! Was this sanctioned by the Iranian government? What was Iran’s response to the incident? Complete denial, right?

 

Today the Pentagon “admits” that quite possibly the audio didn’t come from the boat, yet from someone [perhaps a prankster, they hinted] on the shore? That would explain an absence of sounds of a motor, sound of the wind as the boat sped along on its “destructive” path. But George W. Bush had already called the gunboat’s move “dangerous and provocative”.

 

My question is this: What’s our President up to nowadays? Why insist on what the entire world, including the majority of the people that elected him, has questioned time and time again. Since George took over, his crooked mouth has done no more than spout lies and more lies.

 

The dollar is becoming everyday less stable. One year ago, the U.S. dollar was worth 49 Philippine Pesos. Today, it’s worth less than 41 pesos.

 

The U.S. is on the verge of an economic recession. The “War on Terror” has cost enough lives, money, and human rights violations. It should end.

 

How can we stop terrorism? Stop electing officials who promote such terrorism with their imperialistic policies.

 

I have had the privilege to live outside the confines of the United States. You should hear how most non-Americans speak about the U.S. These people aren’t communists; these people are just like you and me. They are not blind, nor deaf.

 

I am proud to call myself a United States citizen…but it’s time for a change. The Bush administration will stop receiving government funding soon. We can only hope that the next leaders are wiser and better understanding and more tolerant of other religions and races.

 

Just my opinion and I’m entitled to that…

 

 

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Soaring rhetoric about democracy is swiftly
choked to death by petrol fumes

 

President Bush's Only Achievement in the Middle
East is to Increase the Power of Iran

 

 

Johann Hari

 

The Independent (UK)

Monday, January 14, 2008



 

Just as we were all sighing with relief at the end of the Bush years, the lame duck President has waddled into the Middle East to remind us his beak is still nuclear-tipped. With one year to go, he is standing on the sands of Arabia to announce Iran is "the world leading state sponsor of terror" and must be confronted "before it's too late". He then quacks a few words about peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the "success" of the surge in Iraq.

 

So what can we really expect from Act III of Bush in Arabia? Most of us assumed the recent US National Intelligence Estimate - showing Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 - killed the prospect of a Bush bombing raid on Iran. But Bush knows that as it currently stands, he will be remembered as the President who emboldened and empowered the Islamic Republic of Iran. He took out the Ayatollahs' two biggest strategic enemies - Saddam and the Taliban - and helped them become gold-lined by sending oil prices soaring to more than $100 a barrel.

 

Today, after Bush's "re-engineering" of the region, a Shia crescent sympathetic to Iran is now rising on top of the world's oil supplies, from Saudi Arabia through Iraq. Bush may believe, in his flat and faded mind, that bombing the country is his only way to put this right: his former press secretary Ari Fleischer has been focus-grouping to find the best language to sell an attack on Iran.

 

If Bush can't publicly justify the attack on the basis of counter-proliferation, he may try to do it on the basis of counter-terrorism. If it's not bombs he's after, it's baddies. The President has already had the Iranian Revolutionary Guard officially declared "a terrorist organization" - and last week, it appears the White House deliberately concocted a story that Iranian ships were attacking the US navy in international waters.

 

You remember the tale, featured on front pages everywhere. We were told that the day before Bush headed for the Middle East, Iranian speedboats armed with machine-guns in the Strait of Hormuz suddenly decided to charge at the US navy. They announced, "You will explode after a few minutes." The US ships thought they were being attacked; only the restraint of US navy commanders in the face of such wild provocation prevented a full-blown war with Iran. Bush used it to remind the world of the evil of Iran.

 

But here's a funny thing: it didn't happen. A few US ships were briefly approached by tiny Iranian vessels - but their regional commander, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, says his men were never perturbed. The Iranian ships had "neither anti-ship missiles nor torpedoes", he stated, "and I wouldn't characterize the posture of the US 5th Fleet as afraid of these small boats".

 

Nor did the Iranians say "you will explode". The US ships were in open seas, and the Navy now admits anybody within a vast radius could have broadcast this message, explaining: "We cannot make a direct connection to the [Iranian] boats there. It could have come from the shore, from another ship passing by." In the recordings, the "threat" isn't even made with an Iranian accent.

 

So why did Bush hype it up hysterically? There are a few possible explanations. Optimistically, he may be trying simply to hold together his shaky coalition of Arab rulers in the region, who are united by almost nothing save their fear of Iran and of their own people. Pessimistically, it may be part of a sustained PR operation ahead of his own Gulf of Tonkin.

 

As the gunboat-incident-that-never-was traveled across the world, the US National Archives in a sweet coincidence released new classified information about the fictitious event Lyndon B Johnson used to justify ramping up the Vietnam War. In August 1964, the US claimed the North Vietnamese navy attacked two of their destroyers. The new releases show the US knew "no attack happened that night"; they just wanted a casus belli. Incredibly, Hillary Clinton chose that very day to brag she wants to be LBJ to Barack Obama's Martin Luther King.

 

But at least some of us who got Iraq wrong have learnt from it. The evidence is clear today that far from damaging the despicable Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a bombing campaign may be the only thing that can save him now. Ahmadinejad is wildly unpopular with Iran's young electorate, who find his priorities - denying the Holocaust, beating couples who hold hands in public, and hanging gay teenagers - ridiculous. He looks set to lose the looming election - unless Bush bombs, causing a surge of nationalist sentiment.

 

Bush's curtain call looks unlikely to be any more successful in the rest of the region. I am desperate to report some good news from Iraq - but I can't pretend the surge is it. My Iraqi friends have been telling me for months why it has coincided with a fall in violence - and it's nothing to brag about.

 

The ethnic cleansing of Iraq is now almost complete. Sunnis have been driven from Shia areas. Shia have been driven from Sunni areas. They aren't killing each other, because they aren't near each other. The surge has simply consisted of building vast "peace walls" between the communities so they are even less likely to touch. We have turned Baghdad into Belfast-on-steroids, and called it peace.

 

Nor is the picture any better with Israel/Palestine. It was widely reported that Bush called for Israel to end its vicious occupation of the West Bank - but again, it's not true. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bragged last week that Bush is "not doing a single thing that I don't agree to", adding, "He doesn't apply pressure. No, he doesn't apply pressure."

 

Far from advocating a return to the 1967 borders, Olmert brags that Bush did no such thing: "He thinks of the '67 borders, but he has already said '67 plus," meaning Israel could retain its favorite settlement blocks after all. He added, "He's the only President who's ever said that. And that's an amazing achievement for Israel." With these terms, no peace is possible.

 

So why did Bush's honeyed words end here, like this? A clue can be found in the place where Bush will end his visit in wild luxury this week - as the guest of the Saudi royal family in Riyadh. This is the most vicious tyranny in the region, a gang of torturing thugs, and Bush will literally hold their hands and whisper sweet words of love and friendship. (Oh, and sell them $20bn of arms while he's at it.) Why? One reason: they sit on the biggest pot of oil on earth. The most soaring rhetoric about democracy is swiftly choked to death by petrol fumes.

 

Until the United States has kicked its addiction to Middle Eastern oil, it will only ever see the region as a giant petrol station - with a friendly Israel-shaped tent looking out anxiously over the pumps.

 

j.hari@ independent.co.uk

© 2008 Independent News and Media Limited

 

 

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