Revolution#116, January 20, 2008
Who is Really Acting “Dangerously” and “Provocatively” in the Persian Gulf?
On Sunday, January 6, the Pentagon contacted the media about a breaking story: Iranian gunboats had supposedly confronted three U.S. warships in the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, approaching the U.S. ships in a “reckless and dangerous” manner—with “potentially hostile intent,” according to Pentagon spokespeople. The U.S. ships were, they claimed, forced to take “defensive” measures—and were a “heartbeat” from firing on the Iranians. Two days later, the Pentagon produced a video which supposedly proved its case, including an audio track of a heavily accented voice saying, “I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes.”
The tone of the coverage, on Fox News in particular, was “they’ve attacked us.” It sounded like Iranians were practically off the coast of New Jersey.
But wait a minute. This whole “incident” took place over 7,000 miles from the New Jersey shore—but less than 20 miles off Iran’s coast. What are U.S. warships doing 20 miles from Iran’s coast? No one in the media bothered to ask that question—it’s taken as a given that the U.S. imperialists have the “right” to control the Middle East by force and guarantee the flow of oil (20 percent of which flows through the Straits of Hormuz) to the global capitalist market which they dominate.
And which country poses a bigger threat to the other? Iran, which has few if any troops outside its borders, or the U.S. which has some 170,000 stationed in Iraq, immediately to Iran’s west, and another 40,000 in Gulf states less than 200 miles from Iran?
Which one is acting “provocatively”? Iran, whose navy is minuscule compared to the U.S. and has no ships far from its shores? Or the U.S., which has a heavily armed armada, including aircraft carrier and battle groups, and which has conducted major “war games” right off Iran’s coast?
And whose ships are more “dangerous”? The three massive U.S. Navy warships involved in this “incident”—the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (504 feet in length, weighing 8,373 tons, and carrying an M240 machine gun capable of firing 10 armor-piercing projectiles per second and nuclear missiles); the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (567 feet long, weighing 9,600 tons, and capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles); and the guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham (445 feet in length and weighing 4,100 tons)? Or five small Iranian speedboats, perhaps 40 or 50 feet in length, armed at most with machine guns, if at all?
And which country is threatening war and acting aggressively? Iran, which downplayed the incident as a routine encounter in a heavily trafficked shipping lane? Or the U.S., whose President immediately warned: “there will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple.” Who repeated U.S. claims that “Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat and Iran will be a threat to world peace....” and declared that “all options are on the table.” And who did so during a tour of the Middle East whose focus was building a military and political alliance against Iran, and which included (according to the London Sunday Times of January 16) a briefing by Israeli officials on military options for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.
All this came from the proven liars in the White House and Pentagon who brought us “intelligence” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and who (newly declassified documents show) concocted the Tonkin Gulf incident to start the Vietnam War.
In fact, within hours, the Pentagon’s story began leaking like a sieve. It turns out that the threatening audiotape had been made separately and spliced onto the video (which was only 4 minutes and 20 seconds out of an encounter of some 20 minutes), and that the Pentagon could not directly connect the voices to the speedboats, and had to admit they may have come from other boats, or from shore (perhaps of a neighboring country). The Iranian government, which claimed the Pentagon had simply recycled file footage and added its own sound-track, released its own video which depicted a routine interchange between the vessels. A top Naval commander later admitted that the ships hadn’t considered the Iranians a threat and had not been about to open fire. According to Gareth Porter, “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.” (“Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel,” http://www.antiwar.com/porter/?articleid=12191)
What all this DID show was that even after the new National Intelligence Estimate (stating Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons program), Iran is still in the U.S. crosshairs.
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