This Is the Way the World Ends (Updated)

With dumb hotdogs playing brinkmanship games:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route off the Iranian coast, over the weekend, CNN reported on Monday.

Citing unidentified U.S. officials, CNN said the Iranian vessels came within 200 yards (meters) of the U.S. ships in international waters in the strait on Saturday, and U.S. sailors came close to opening fire.

Oil prices rose about 30 cents to over $98 a barrel after the CNN report, with traders citing increased risk of disruptions to oil shipments along the key shipping route.

U.S. military officials told CNN the boats were “attack craft” that they believed were operated by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.

The Iranian boats made threatening maneuvers against the U.S. warships and threatening radio transmissions, the officials told


The captain of one U.S. vessel was in the process of giving the order to shoot when the Iranian ships began turning away, CNN said.

A radio transmission from one of the Iranian ships said, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes,” CNN reported, citing a U.S. official.

While the blogger formerly known as praktike is right, the Iranians may be speculating in the oil market (the stakes are quite high and the ROI is fabulous), I think it’s more likely that it’s just a bunch of IRG’s horsing around, taunting the Great Satan. You can’t peddle that soft of stuff for a generation or more without it having some effects. As to Unqualified Offerings’s skepticism, remember Ronald Reagan’s comment when he thought the microphone was off, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”? People do all sorts of wacky things when you put a microphone into their hands.


Both Ed Morrissey and Mike Hendrix think it was a probing run. Ed urges a more forceful response to such hooliganism from the Iranians:

This cannot be allowed to happen again. The next time patrol boats approach American vessels and threaten attack, one of them has to head to the bottom of the gulf. If the Iranians want a test, we can provide them with one for emergency evac.

Without more evidence I’m holding to my take of reckless stupidity.

2 comments… add one
  • Having spent quite a bit of time in the Gulf with the US Navy during the 1990s, I think I can provide a somewhat informed comment on this.

    First I’ll say that the IRCG Navy acts and conducts itself very differently from the regular Iranian Navy. The regular Navy acts like a professional military force and they observe the rules of seafaring (both written and unwritten). The Iranian Navy would often come out and look at our carrier, but they were always careful to maintain safety of navigation – for example, they’d contact us bridge-to-bridge, announce their presence and intentions, which were usually to come have a quick look and go about their business. They were consistently polite and professional.

    The IRGC were quite different. They observed no protocols and rarely answered any bridge-to-bridge hails. Sometimes they would do things, like crossing our bow at an uncomfortable distance, that would normally be considered hazardous navigation – kind of like when a driver on the road cuts in front of you. None of it had much chance for any serious incident, but a US aircraft carrier is, at a 100,000 tons displacement, not exactly a nimble so from a purely safety-of-navigation perspective we like keep a good distance of open water off the bow – particularly when flight operations are being conducted.

    Having said all that and from reading reports of the official Iranian government reaction, my impression is that this was not something that was a planned operation at senior levels. I can only speculate on if this was a spur-of-the-moment thing ordered by the formation commander or possibly something planned a bit higher up.

    After we kicked the crap out of the Iranian Navy during the 1980’s they have always been careful not to provoke attack. It’s certainly possible that this incident signals a more aggressive Iranian posture in the Gulf, but that seems unlikely to me. With the NIE popping the attack-Iran balloon, I doubt the Iranians would be foolish enough to intentionally risk a shooting incident or engage in a probing run designed to gauge our response, readiness and ROE. I can’t discount the possibility though, and my direct experience with the Iranian Navy and IRGC is almost a decade old now.

    The key for me is the official Iranian response. Without formal diplomatic relations our two nations often end up communicating through the press. I think this “leak,” which is likely intentional, was designed to remind the Iranians where our red lines are and how close they came to crossing them. Iran’s response indicates that they received the message and will ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    I also think it’s important to note the Iranian tactics described in the incident are legitimate. We’ve long anticipated IRGC-directed small boat as well as suicide attacks in any naval conflict with Iran.

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