Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 07, 2008

A Non-Incident in the Gulf

Tomorrow Bush will start a tour through the Middle East. The purpose is not some peace talk. As the Washington Post headlined today: Heading to Mideast, Bush Targets Iran

President Bush intends to use his first extended tour of the Middle East to rally support for international pressure against Iran ...

Lately the Arab Gulf states have been very reluctant to pressure Iran. The Iranian president was invited to the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting and, by the Saudi king, to the Hajj in Mecca. The Arab Gulf states have absolutly no interest to stall their current economic boom by any trouble with their big and peaceful neighbor.

The Israelis are uncomfortable with this and their Defense Minister Barak will tomorrow explain to Bush "why American intelligence is wrong about Iran's nukes." One wonders how the CIA folks feel about that.

The Iran NIE claimed Iran had stopped a nuclear weapons program in 2003 (if such program has existed at all.) There is no domestic support left for any aggression against Iran.

Bush needed to spice up his trip. What better to have, then a little incident that proves to the Gulf states, as well as to the domestic public, that he is still right in seeing all big evil coming from Iran.

Ask and you will receive:

In what U.S. officials called a serious provocation, Iranian boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, threatening to explode the American vessels.
Five small boats began charging the U.S. ships, dropping boxes in the water in front of the ships and forcing the U.S. ships to take evasive maneuvers, the Pentagon official said.

There were no injuries but the official said there could have been, because the Iranian boats turned away "literally at the very moment that U.S. forces were preparing to open fire" in self defense.

Unsuprisingly the Iranians have a different view of the incident:

The US vessels approached Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, warning they were in a Red Zone, the unnamed official told Press TV on Monday.

He added that the Iranians had asked the warships to identify themselves; as such radio communications are usual between vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Considering the obvious 'just in time' delivery of this provocation I tend to believe the Iranian version of this case.

The U.S. Navy has a prominent history of such 'incidents'. But unlike the fake events in the Gulf of Tonkin, which led to a Congress war resolution and the Vietnam war, this propaganda show is unlikely to have any consequences. Who, but Fox news viewers, will believe that this was coincidental?

By now all parties, the domestic U.S., the Iranians and the Gulf states have learned to disregard Bush's simplistic propaganda.

Posted by b on January 7, 2008 at 18:09 UTC | Permalink


seems most media have a lot of difficulty from telling a boat from a ship

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 7 2008 18:34 utc | 1

Haaretz, 6 jan 08, by G. Levy, my bold:

“George Bush is coming to Israel this week. He will take pleasure in his visit. One can assume that there are few prime ministers with a giant photo of themselves with the U.S. president hanging on the wall in their home, as our Ehud Olmert boasted last week that he does, to his exalted guest, the comic Eli Yatzpan. There are also few other countries where the lame duck from Washington would not be greeted with mass demonstrations; instead, Israel is making great efforts to welcome him graciously. The man who has wreaked such ruin upon the world, upon his country, and upon us is such a welcome guest only in Israel.” (...)

“A president who endorsed every abomination - from the expansion of settlements to the failure to honor commitments and signed agreements, including those with U.S. such as the passages agreement and the freeze on settlement construction - is not a president who seeks the best for Israel or aspires to peace.”>haaretz

Press in Israel is far freerer than in the US, there isn’t any comparison really. Chomsky is a coward, and a sort of indirect Israel supporter, but he has one thing right, the direction of the domination.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jan 7 2008 19:05 utc | 2

Now how to blame Iran for this one?

Navy fighter jets crash in Persian Gulf

Two U.S. Navy fighter jets plunged into the Persian Gulf Monday, after what initial reports suggest was a mid-air collision, a defense official said.

Posted by: b | Jan 7 2008 19:40 utc | 3

And both aircraft, each costing $57 million, were destroyed.

Used to have a tee-shirt 20 years ago which said: "What if our schools had all the money they needed, and the Air Force had to hold bake sales to buy a bomber."

Posted by: Ensley | Jan 7 2008 20:34 utc | 4


secrecynews: NSA Releases History of American SIGINT and the Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese intelligence units sometimes succeeded in penetrating Allied communications systems, and they could monitor Allied message traffic from within. But sometimes they did more than that.

On several occasions "the communists were able, by communicating on Allied radio nets, to call in Allied artillery or air strikes on American units."

That is just one passing observation (at p. 392) in an exhaustive history of American signals intelligence (SIGINT) in the Vietnam War that has just been declassified and released by the National Security Agency.

From the first intercepted cable -- a 1945 message from Ho Chi Minh to Joseph Stalin -- to the final evacuation of SIGINT personnel from Saigon, the 500-page NSA volume, called "Spartans in Darkness," retells the history of the Vietnam War from the perspective of signals intelligence.

The most sensational part of the history (which was excerpted and disclosed by the NSA two years ago) is the recounting of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident, in which a reported North Vietnamese attack on U.S. forces triggered a major escalation of the war. The author demonstrates that not only is it not true, as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told Congress, that the evidence of an attack was "unimpeachable," but that to the contrary, a review of the classified signals intelligence proves that "no attack happened that night."

Several other important Vietnam War-era episodes are elucidated by the contribution of SIGINT, including the Tet Offensive, the attempted rescue of U.S. prisoners of war from Son Tay prison, and more.

doc is linked at link above

Posted by: b real | Jan 7 2008 20:49 utc | 5

I think this is a big message to the Naval US Fleet in the Straits of Hormuz.

We will send out speed-boats with parcel bombs, and drop them where we like too.

Meanwhile, we are just lazy fishermen, 4GW just went seaborne, and carriers, cruisers, destroyers and minesweepers just have become juicier targets.

USN must be going ballistic now.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 7 2008 22:37 utc | 6

Why would Iran provoke a peace loving people like the U.S.?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 8 2008 2:07 utc | 7

Iranian Patrol Boat:

Crew: Six
Displacement: 4.6 tons
Length: 12m (36 feet)
Power Plant: Twin 120HP outboards
Armament: One 30-caliber light machine gun


AEGIS Class Missile Cruiser:

General characteristics, CG-52 Bunker Hill variant

* Crew: 358 (nominally, most units ship out with a few less)
* Displacement: 9,500 tons approximate
* Length: 172.8 meters (567 feet)
* Beam: 16.8 meters (55 feet)
* Draught: 9.5 meters (31 feet)
* Unclassified maximum speed: more than 30 knots
* Range: 6,000 miles
* Fire control system: Aegis combat system
* Guns: 2x BAE Mk. 45 Mod 3 127mm/54 automatic lightweight guns (AAW/ASuW/NGFS). 2x Bushmaster Mk. 38 25mm autocannon. 4-8 Browning M2 or GAU/19A 12.7x99mm NATO HMG (GAU/16 tri-barreled 12.7mm Gatling guns in some units). 2x Mk. 15 Phalanx CIWS
* Missile launchers: 2x Mk. 41 VLS, 61 cells each. Reloading cranes have been removed from some units for a total of 64 cells per launcher. Mk. 43 RAM to replace Phalanx on some units.
* Surface-to-surface missiles: 8x RGM-84D Harpoon anti-ship missiles (with auxiliary land-attack mode) in most units. Up to 128 RGM-109 Tactical Tomahawk land-attack missiles (with some anti-ship capability). VLS-launched missiles can be carried in any combination.
* Anti-aircraft missiles: RIM-66/RIM-156 Standard Block IIIb and/or Block IVA. RIM-161 SM3 ABM. Evolved Sea Sparrow missile in quadpacks (4 missiles per VLS cell (maximum 512 rounds). RIM-116 RAM to be installed on some units. Both Standard and ESSM have anti-surface modes. ESSM is far smaller, useful in this regard only against FACs or corvettes, while Standard is a threat to even the largest surface combatants.
* Anti-submarine missiles: RUM-139A Vertical Launch ASROC (inertial guidance) with Mk. 46 Neartip or Mk. 50 homing torpedo warhead.
* Torpedo tubes: 2x triple 324mm ASW tubes, Mk. 46, Mk. 50 or Mk. 54 torpedoes.
* Countermeasures: SRBOC chaff, TORCH infrared decoys, soids, Nulka multi-mode decoys, AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoys, AN/SLQ-32 ECM unit.
* Power Plant: 4x GE LM2500 (20,000 HP variant) gas turbine engines, 80,000 total shaft horsepower. 2x controllable pitch propellers.

Posted by: Janes Arms | Jan 8 2008 6:40 utc | 8

Thanks to b real @ 5. I look forward to reading the text, and wonder
how much it will reveal about North Vietnamese capacity for reading American signals, which was apparently extremely high and well exploited.
Naturally, one also wonders about the state of SIGINT and COMSEC in the Iraq-Iran theater, where there have already been interesting revelations (vulnerability of Thuraya phones, the Chalabi betrayal, etc.) I suspect
that many within the U.S. forces in Iraq underestimate the SIGINT capabilities of their adversaries, and that sloppy COMSEC is frequent. (Just guessing, of course, or, more accurately "mouthing off" on a topic about which I know nothing via first hand experience.) Continuing in this vein, it is rather easy to predict that within at most a few decades China will be the dominant power in signals intelligence, clandestine monitoring and the "black arts". Even under that hypothetical Sinaic security regime those who "have done nothing wrong" will have nothing to worry about. So we should probably be grateful to our present day "silent partners in communication" who are helping us learn to be good citizens of the future global union.
Please excuse my veering off topic.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Jan 8 2008 7:25 utc | 9

LWM posted this over at the salon. I was not aware of just how crazy that whole game is. whether the US Navy is being completely truthful or not and regardless of the timing of the report, it does appear that Iran is not quite ready to roll over and take it in the shorts.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 8 2008 16:54 utc | 10

dear dear dear me

cnn is incapable of calling a speedboat a speedboat - & wanders often to 'iranian ships' or 'iranian boats' - as freud sd sometimes a cigar is just a cigar - & a speedboat is just a speedboat

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 8 2008 21:20 utc | 11

or as my irish comrades would say - calling a spadeboat a spadeboat

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 8 2008 22:24 utc | 12

Bush Castigates Iran, Calling Naval Confrontation ‘Provocative Act’

Mr. Bush will visit three Gulf states — Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — during his stay in the Middle East. Experts on Iran said the episode in the Strait of Hormuz gave Mr. Bush an opening to press his message that Iran is a danger.

“I think he’s realized that a lot of the international steam on Iran has been lost in the wake of the N.I.E.,” said Michael Jacobson, an expert on Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a research organization in Washington. “I think he’s doing what he can to try to refocus the international community on the dangers that Iran poses.”

Posted by: b | Jan 9 2008 9:16 utc | 13

the mighty wurlitzer is up and running thru-out Europe as well. this morning watching Rainews24 (Italian) they were scrolling Iranian assault on US Navy.

I also do not understand what the US Navy hoped to demonstrate by showing a couple of speedboats circling armed-to-the-teeth warships. what was the intended or hoped for reaction to that?

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 9 2008 20:06 utc | 14


they were thinking more along the lines of the-three-stooges-at-sea kind of thing. laughably brutal without being in the least comic

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 9 2008 20:42 utc | 15

thanks remembereringgiap, that is probably it. Most likely the same kind of people who find the 3 Stooges funny made the decision to release that video.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 9 2008 21:05 utc | 16

How many speedboats laden with EFP's could you buy with the cost of the two F-18s lost earlier this week?

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 9 2008 21:12 utc | 17


have no idea about their sense of humour but was watching a learned & supremely pompous professor of game theory at some elite american university sd there was no possibility of a conflict between the u s & iran. he didn't giggle either but he did have those eerie scientology eyes

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 9 2008 21:31 utc | 19

Even the NYT says the Navy video is fake?!: Iran Accuses U.S. of Faking Persian Gulf Video

The unnamed Revolutionary Guard official quoted in the Iranian news media asserted that the video of the speedboats had been released to coincide with a trip by President Bush to the Middle East and “was in line with a project of the Western media to create fear.” The official said the sounds and images on the video did not go together, adding, “It is very clear that they are fake.”

The Fars news agency had said that the confrontation had been fabricated to present Iran as a threat to its neighbors before Mr. Bush’s trip so he could justify United States forces in the gulf.
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.

Posted by: b | Jan 10 2008 9:31 utc | 20

re Fake Video - good to see NYT carrying story. Guess the lab that manufactures those bin Laden videos had some spare time on their hands.

So, now they've gone from faking/provoking incidents as excuse for aggressive wars, to merely manufacturing videos claiming, errr I mean proving, such incidents happened. Again, it worked well enough for war on terra...Now if only NYT will follow up by exposing bin Laden videos, maybe we'll really start getting somewhere.

And while they're at it, why don't they investigate Tuesday's manufactured NH voting results...Christ, what isn't all lies all the time now...At least impt. factions of the Elite oppose Iran assault, so we're safe for the moment....

Posted by: jj | Jan 10 2008 10:10 utc | 21

Iran has released via Press TV its own video footage of the incident, showing that it was a regular contact between the Guards and the US Navy.

"Seit 5.45 Uhr wird zurückgeschossen..."

Posted by: Juan Moment | Jan 10 2008 12:18 utc | 22

Fitting here - McClatchy: U.S. counterfeiting charges against N. Korea based on shaky evidence

a 10-month McClatchy investigation on three continents has found that the evidence to support Bush's charges against North Korea is uncertain at best and that the claims of the North Korean defectors cited in news accounts are dubious and perhaps bogus. One key law enforcement agency, the Swiss federal criminal police, has publicly questioned whether North Korea is even capable of producing "supernotes," counterfeit $100 bills that are nearly perfect except for some practically invisible additions.
Klaus Bender, the author of a book on the subject, "Moneymakers: The Secret World of Banknote Printing," said that the phony $100 bill is "not a fake anymore. It's an illegal parallel print of a genuine note."

"It goes way beyond what normal counterfeiters are able to do," said Bender, whose book first spotlighted the improbability of North Korean supernotes. "And it is so elaborate (and expensive) it doesn't pay for the counterfeiting anymore."

Bender claims that the supernotes are of such high quality and are updated so frequently that they could be produced only by a U.S. government agency such as the CIA.

As unsubstantiated as the allegation is, there is a precedent. In his new book on the history of the CIA, journalist Tim Weiner detailed how the agency tried to undermine the Soviet Union's economy by counterfeiting its currency.

Making limited quantities of sophisticated counterfeit notes also could help intelligence and law enforcement agencies follow payments or illicit activities or track the movement of funds among unsavory regimes, terrorist groups and others.

Posted by: b | Jan 10 2008 14:02 utc | 23

NSA: “No Attack Happened” in Gulf of Tonkin

Newly declassified documents have provided more evidence the Johnson administration faked the Gulf of Tonkin incident to escalate the Vietnam War. The alleged 1964 attack on U.S. warships by North Vietnamese was used as a pretext to increase bombing and troop deployments in Vietnam. But a report from the National Security Agency concludes: “no attack happened that night.”

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 10 2008 15:35 utc | 24

Fucking liars: U.S.: Voices on Recording May Not Have Been From Iranian Speedboats

Just two days after the U.S. Navy released the eerie video of Iranian speedboats swarming around American warships, which featured a chilling threat in English, the Navy is saying that the voice on the tape could have come from the shore or from another ship.
The Navy never said specifically where the voices came from, but many were left with the impression they had come from the speedboats because of the way the Navy footage was edited.

Today, the spokesperson for the U.S. admiral in charge of the Fifth Fleet clarified to ABC News that the threat may have come from the Iranian boats, or it may have come from somewhere else.

We're saying that we cannot make a direct connection to the boats there," said the spokesperson. "It could have come from the shore, from another ship passing by.

Posted by: b | Jan 10 2008 21:42 utc | 25

b - link is broken on 25

Chilling Threat Could Have Come From the Langley or Cheney's Basement, Navy Says

Posted by: b real | Jan 10 2008 21:59 utc | 26

Thanks b real - link @25 corrected.

Posted by: b | Jan 10 2008 22:11 utc | 27

Crude forgery of the tape by overdubbing voices and insinuating but never directly alleging these are threats from Iranians, is SOP for amerikan domestic indoctrination.

For that is what this is.

After the Iraqi WMD furphy BushCo/CheneyCorp know that they would never get this sort of manufactured provocation up far enough to get congress onside "for a little payback" however limited it might be.

Releasing the tape with forgery smack in the middle of the 08 primaries, and, chimp's big trip, then partially withdrawing the allegation a couple of days later, but with much less fanfare means that most amerikans will file the 'provocation' away as true.

Just like the mis-translated CNN speeches of Ahmadinejad on Israel where almost exactly the same technique was used, this lie will be incorporated into amerikan's shared reality of Iran.

Future articles in the mainstream media will refer back to the original story and tape without mentioning the correction which may well disappear down the memory hole soon.

Clinton W. did much the same during his reign to blacken Iraq. A stready flow of distorted and untrue stories about Iraqi AA 'targeting' USuk military aircraft in Iraqi airspace, became part of the amerikan folklore about 'evil Saddam' which Bush GW relied upon to mount his illegal invasion.

The empire stays the same under tweedledee or tweedledum.

Say that often enough and loud enough and maybe it will become part of the shared reality of amerika too.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jan 11 2008 0:05 utc | 28

the fabrication of this situation was so so crude - it tells us a great deal about the intra-elite rivalry in those united states

i'd say cheney's wing is going at it - mad as meataxes before his heart bursts & with the nie reports they are such an insistent humiliation of those elements that want to extend their already bloody war - (note their carpetbombing of iraq intensifies each day)

i think the forgery is so plain its intent is to subvert

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 11 2008 0:39 utc | 29

Over at Huffpo Hooman Majd writes:

...The audio tape is even less convincing, mainly because the person speaking doesn't have an Iranian accent and moreover, sounds more like Boris Karloff in a horror movie than a sailor in the elite branch of Iran's military. (The tape is also separate from any video.) Any Iranian can immediately identify Persian-accented English, particularly if the speaker has had little contact with the West, as is the case with Revolutionary Guardsmen and sailors. Iranians, you see, have difficulty with two consonants such as "p" and "l" next to each other; even Iranians who have lived in America for years will often pronounce "please" as "peh-leeze", or in this case, "explode" as "exp-eh-lode". On the tape, "explode" is pronounced perfectly, albeit as if the speaker was a villain addressing a superhero. Further, it is unimaginable, given what is known about the Revolutionary Guards (and I have met many), that one of its corps would speak in a such a manner, even if the accent were correctly Persian.

Posted by: beq | Jan 11 2008 12:59 utc | 30

Very caustic, very funny


These speed boats had no guns. No planes. Nothing. Drug runners using these cigarette boats are better armed. Pirates off of Kenya are better armed. Kayakers paddling down streams are better armed. Sunbathers in Miami are certainly better armed! I recently watched films of the Kamikaze pilots of WWII fame. They were scary. This was not. And if we can't shoot tiny boats, our navy should be sold to India for scrap. Of course Iran can sink our navy as it is pinned in the narrow straits of Hormuz but this will be done from land, not from tiny boats with a single Evenrude motor. What next? Attacks from a jihad jetski?

The fact that the Pentagon misstated this 'confrontation' means we must replace the clowns who couldn't tell the difference from the Battle of Midway and Girls Gone Wild. This 'confrontation' should have not made ANY NEWS AT ALL. ...


Posted by: Hamburger | Jan 11 2008 13:49 utc | 31

Gareth Potter has a run down on the tuth and how the media keep avoiding it: A man-made storm in a strait

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, the Associated Press carried a story that said, "US forces were taking steps toward firing on the Iranians to defend themselves, said the US naval commander in the region. But the boats - believed to be from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' 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 US captain was in the process of ordering sailors to open fire when the Iranian boats moved away" - a story that Cosgriff had specifically denied.

Posted by: b | Jan 11 2008 18:52 utc | 32

Navy Times: ‘Filipino Monkey’ may be behind radio threats, ship drivers say

The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the “Filipino Monkey.”

Since the Jan. 6 incident was announced to the public a day later, the U.S. Navy has said it’s unclear where the voice came from. In the videotape released by the Pentagon on Jan. 8, the screen goes black at the very end and the voice can be heard, distancing it from the scenes on the water.
In recent years, American ships operating in the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known by the ethnically insulting handle of “Filipino Monkey,” likely more than one person, who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net shouting insults and jabbering vile epithets.

Navy women — a helicopter pilot hailing a tanker, for example — who are overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment.

Several Navy ship drivers interviewed by Navy Times are raising the possibility that the Monkey, or an imitator, was indeed featured in that video.

Rick Hoffman, a retired captain who commanded the cruiser Hue City and spent many of his 17 years at sea in the Gulf was subject to the renegade radio talker repeatedly, often without pause during the so-called “Tanker Wars” of the late 1980s.

“For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats,” he said. “He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship.”

And the Monkey has stamina.

“He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy,” he said. “But who knows how many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”

Posted by: b | Jan 12 2008 6:28 utc | 33

Jim Lobe of IPS has some interesting thoughts on this:

I think there are two interesting points worth making — the first, regarding the reaction (or, more precisely the lack of one) by the familiar clutch of hawks to what was depicted as an major provocation by Iran; and the second, the possibility that the Navy and the Pentagon chose to dramatize the incident not so much to isolate and embarrass Iran as to enhance the chances for a new “incidents- at-sea” agreement that they have been pushing on the White House without success for many months now.
Possible ...

Posted by: b | Jan 12 2008 7:16 utc | 34

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