2008 U.S.–Iranian naval dispute

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2008 U.S.–Iranian naval dispute
Location Strait of Hormuz
Result Resolved peacefully
Belligerents
United States United States Navy Iran Iranian Navy
Strength
3 warships 5 patrol boats

The 2007-2008 US-Iranian naval dispute refers to a series of naval stand-offs between Iranian speedboats and U.S. Navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz in December 2007 and January 2008.[1]

Incident[edit]

Map of Strait of Hormuz with maritime political boundaries
6 January 2008: Iranian speedboats maneuver near US Navy ships

On 6 January 2008, five Iranian patrol boats crewed by the Revolutionary Guard approached three U.S. Navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz: the cruiser USS Port Royal, the destroyer USS Hopper and the frigate USS Ingraham. In a compilation of video and audio released by the Pentagon of the most provocative moments of the encounter, the radio officer of the USS Hopper is seen and heard attempting to make radio contact with the Iranian vessels. A few moments later, another voice radioed the USS Hopper saying, "I am coming at you. You will explode [in or after] [static] minutes."[2][3]

Early U.S. reports indicated that because the Iranian boats continued to circle the U.S. warships and had been seen to drop several packages into the water, the U.S. ships had no choice but to take the threats seriously and maintain a defensive posture.[citation needed] Pentagon officials said the American ships were about to open fire when the Iranian boats withdrew.[4] The commander of the destroyer USS Hopper publicly denied that the American ships were about to open fire.[5][6]

U.S. officials said the Iranians "harassed and provoked" their naval vessels,[7] coming within 200 yards (180 m) of one warship. Iranian officials responded by calling the incident a routine contact of a sort that happens all the time in the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf.[8] In response, on 8 January 2008 the Department of Defense released an abridged four-minute video segment of the audio and video recordings of the incident that included the radio threat.[9] An Iranian Revolutionary Guard source stated, "The footage released by the US Navy are file pictures and the audio has been fabricated"[4] On 10 January 2008, Iran accused the U.S. of creating a "media fuss". The Iranian PressTV then released its own abridged video of the incident, where no threats can be heard.[10][11][12][13] The U.S. later released a 36 minute video of the incident.[14]

There has been confusion as to the source of the threatening radio transmissions. Persian-speakers and Iranians have told The Washington Post that the accent in the American recording does not sound Iranian. The New York Times pointed out that the U.S.-released audio includes no ambient noise of the kind that might be expected if the broadcast had come from on one of the speedboats.[8] The Navy Times wrote that the incident could have been caused by a locally famous heckler known as the "Filipino Monkey", noting that the threatening voice sounds different from that of the Iranian officer.[15][16][17] Several media outlets reported that the Navy spliced the audio recording of the alleged Iranian threat onto to a videotape of the incident.[18][19][20][14][21][5]

The Pentagon spokesman who described the Iranian boats as “highly maneuverable patrol craft” that were “visibly armed” did not note that such boats usually only carry a two- or three-man crew and that they are normally armed only with machine guns. 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 shows.[18]

On 12 January 2008, it was revealed that, contrary to previous reports, the packages the Iranian boats had dropped into the water posed no threat to the U.S. vessels. The leading U.S. vessels observed that they were harmless light floating objects and did not report them to following U.S. vessels as a danger.[22]

Lieutenant John Gay of the fifth Fleet later said, "There is no way to know where this (radioed threat) exactly came from. It could have come from the shore... or another vessel in the area"[23]

On 12 January 2008, two earlier incidents during December 2007 were revealed by U.S. Navy officials, one in which the USS Whidbey Island fired warning shots in response to a small Iranian boat which was approaching it on 19 December. The Iranian boat reportedly then retreated after the shots were fired.[22][24]

In an 8 July speech to the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Shirazi, a mid-level clerical aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, "The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned," according to the student news agency ISNA.[25]

Historical context[edit]

The presence of U.S. warships in the Strait has been a sensitive issue for Iran since 3 July 1988, when the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Vincennes (CG-49) shot down an Iranian commercial flight in Iranian airspace over the Strait, killing 290 civilians, an incident for which the U.S. never apologized, though it did provide monetary compensation.[12][21]

Territorial context[edit]

To travel through the Strait of Hormuz, which at its narrowest is 21 nautical miles (39 km) wide, ships pass through the territorial waters of Iran and Oman under the transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.[26] Neither Iran or the U.S. have ratified the convention,[27] but the U.S. accepts the traditional navigation rules as reflected in the Convention.[28] Iran has stated that it reserves "the right to require prior authorization for warships to exercise the right of innocent passage through its territorial sea."[29] It is unclear if the incident happened in the territorial waters of Iran or Oman.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "US-Iranian naval dispute deepens". BBC. 12 January 2008. Archived from the original on 15 January 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2008. 
  2. ^ Barbara Starr (7 January 2008). "Iranian ships 'harass' U.S. Navy, officials say". CNN. Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  3. ^ Ivan Watson (14 January 2008). "Did a Radio Prank Escalate Iran-U.S. Confrontation?". NPR. Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  4. ^ a b "Iran says US video was fabricated". BBC News. 9 January 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Porter, Gareth (16 January 2008). "How the Pentagon Planted a False Hormuz Story". Inter Press Service. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2008.  "The naval commanders seemed most determined, however, to scotch the idea that they had been close to firing on the Iranians...Comdr. Jeffery James, commander of the destroyer Hopper, told reporters that the Iranians had moved away "before we got to the point where we needed to open fire"."
    "A separate audio recording of that voice, which came across the VHS channel open to anyone with access to it, was spliced into a video on which the voice apparently could not be heard. That was a political decision, and Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon’s Public Affairs Office told IPS the decision on what to include in the video was "a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command and Navy leadership in the field.""
  6. ^ Janke, E; Hutchings, M T; Day, P; Walker, P J (14 January 2008). "U.S., Iran on Hormuz incident". Xinhuanet 16: 5959. doi:10.1088/0022-3719/16/31/011. Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2008.  Jeff James, Commander of the USS Hopper, said, "During this entire time we were going through our pre-planned responses and our measured, very disciplined responses trying to warn them off before we had to take any lethal action. And fortunately for everybody involved, they turned outbound before we got to the point where we needed to open fire."
  7. ^ Pauline Jelinek (7 January 2008). "Pentagon Says Ships Harassed by Iran". FOX News. Archived from the original on 8 January 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  8. ^ a b Källén, Bengt A. J. (10 January 2008). "US doubts over Iran boat 'threat'". BBC News 79: 301. doi:10.1002/bdra.20327. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  9. ^ "Three U.S. Navy Ships Approached by Iranian Boats (video 080107-D-6570C-001)". U.S. Department of Defense. 7 January 2008. Archived from the original on 12 January 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  10. ^ "Iran releases own video of U.S. Gulf incident". Reuters. 10 January 2008. Archived from the original on 16 January 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  11. ^ "Iran releases footage of PG naval check (video)". PressTV.com. 10 January 2008. Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  12. ^ a b Wright, Robin (11 January 2008). "Iranian Boats May Not Have Made Radio Threat, Pentagon Says". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 January 2008. 
  13. ^ Inter Press Service, 10 January 2008, "Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel," http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=40747 archived at - http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/11/6314/
  14. ^ a b Baldor, Lolita C. (12 January 2008). "Navy releases longer video of Iranian incident". The Statesman (Associated Press). Retrieved 27 January 2008.  Also mentions a "separate Pentagon-released audio tape came from the Iranian boats. In the recording, a man can be heard saying in accented English: "I am coming to you," and then, "You will explode.""
  15. ^ ‘Filipino Monkey’ behind threats? - Navy News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Navy Times
  16. ^ "Prankster linked to US-Iran incident". Television New Zealand. 15 January 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  17. ^ Did a Radio Prank Escalate Iran-U.S. Confrontation?
  18. ^ a b Inter Press Service, 10 January 2008, "Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel," http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=40747 archived at http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/11/6314/
  19. ^ Porter, Gareth (17 January 2008). "How the Pentagon planted a false story". Asia Times. Retrieved 27 January 2008.  "A separate audio recording of that voice, which came across the VHS channel open to anyone with access to it, was spliced into a video on which the voice apparently could not be heard. That was a political decision, and Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon's Public Affairs Office told IPS the decision on what to include in the video was "a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command and navy leadership in the field".
  20. ^ Lolita C., Baldor; Sebastian Abbot (9 January 2008). "Ship video shows U.S. encounter with Iran" (– Scholar search). The News Tribune (Associated Press). Retrieved 27 January 2008. [dead link] "The audio and video recordings were separate but pulled together by the Navy."
  21. ^ a b Abdullah, Ahmed (12 January 2008). "U.S.-Iran stand-off: Mere propaganda or prelude to war?". Aljazeera. Retrieved 27 January 2008.  "But it turned out that the warning was a separate audio recording that was added onto the video..."
  22. ^ a b Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson (12 January 2008). "Objects From Iranian Boats Posed No Threat, Navy Says". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2008. 
  23. ^ Michel Chossudovsky (11 January 2008). "US War Plans and the "Strait of Hormuz Incident": Just Who Threatens Whom?". Global Research. Retrieved 11 January 2008. 
  24. ^ Sebastian Abbot (12 January 2008). "US Navy Says It Fired Warning Shots". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 12 January 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2008. 
  25. ^ "Iran to "hit Tel Aviv, U.S. ships" if attacked". Yahoo News. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  26. ^ "The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (A historical perspective)". Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. UN. Archived from the original on 14 January 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  27. ^ "Chronological lists of ratifications of, accessions and successions to the Convention and the related Agreements as at 26 October 2007". Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. UN. Archived from the original on 14 January 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  28. ^ U.S. President Ronald Reagan (10 March 1983). "Presidential Proclamation 5030". Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2008. 
  29. ^ U.S. Department of State (25 May 2000). "Limits in the Sea, National Claims to Maritime Restrictions". Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2008.