Monday, 14 January 2008
By Sara Flounders
What is an armada of U.S. warships doing off the coast of Iran?
The Pentagon has initiated an extremely dangerous war provocation just off Iran’s coast, in the Strait of Hormuz.The U.S. Navy has gathered nuclear-armed aircraft carriers, guided-missile destroyers, frigates, cruisers and submarines thousands of miles from the U.S. off the coast of Iran.Isn’t this massive mobilization of deadly, nuclear-armed equipment a major provocation?
On Jan. 6, the U.S. claims a “confrontation” took place between three massive guided-missile U.S. attack vessels and five small, open Iranian speedboats at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Iranian media on Jan. 9 denied the U.S. claims, saying Washington fabricated a video showing the skirmish.At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is only 34 miles across. However, there is only a 2-mile-wide navigable channel for inbound and outbound tanker traffic, as well as a 2-mile-wide buffer zone. Roughly 40 percent of all globally traded oil supply flows on ships through this narrow chokepoint of water between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
It is essential to take note of when this dangerous “incident” took place. It was on the eve of President George W. Bush’s trip to the region. Bush is expected to spend eight days visiting Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The purpose of his trip is to convince these corrupt, feudal regimes, which are dependent U.S.-client states, that Iran represents a dangerous threat.
Isn’t this threatening trip to the countries surrounding Iran a provocative act?
While the Iranian government has attempted to downplay the incident, Washington has gone out of its way to further threaten Iran. The corporate media has, with one voice, uncritically reported the U.S. charges that what happened was an Iranian “provocation.” President Bush claimed Iran committed “a provocative act and a dangerous situation.” Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff attacked Iran as “unnecessarily provocative.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the move as “provocative and dangerous.” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesperson, charged the Iranians with acting in a “reckless and dangerous manner.”
U.S. warships a constant threat
None of the corporate media has even once asked what this deadly array of U.S. warships is doing in this narrow chokehold of vital shipping off the coast of Iran.The U.S. Navy has again and again held major war games to plan for and stage just such a confrontation with Iran. The Pentagon has announced that it has already set targets on thousands of sites in Iran.A video released to the media belies the very story that is being drummed up by the Bush administration. It shows five small open-air Iranian speedboats buzzing in the distance, far from the USS Hopper. Iranian boats have every right to patrol and defend their own coastal waters.
It should be noted that, according to the Pentagon’s own description, the USS Hopper is a guided-missile destroyer. It carries an M240 machine gun that can fire 10 armor-piercing projectiles per second and is capable of carrying nuclear missiles that can destroy whole cities. This high-tech ship weighs 8,373 tons and measures 504 feet in length. It was traveling in convoy with the USS Port Royal—a guided-missile cruiser that weighs 9,600 tons fully loaded and has a length of 567 feet and is also capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles—and the guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham, weighing 4,100 tons and measuring 445 feet in length.
These three deadly ships are just a small part of the U.S. Navy armada arrayed off the Iranian coast, which includes aircraft carriers that can carry out prolonged bombing missions. In addition, heavy armor and military supplies for the U.S. occupation in Iraq and other Gulf countries pass through the channel aboard U.S. Navy-owned, U.S.-flagged and foreign-flagged ships.
The Bush administration has continued to threaten Iran even since 16 of the top U.S. spy agencies publicly released a National Intelligence Estimate concluding that Iran has no nuclear program, at least since 2003, nor nuclear weapons. This NIE Report was a public rift within the top levels of the U.S. military and the ruling class, who are concerned that the Bush/Cheney push for a wider war involving Iran would boomerang.
The attempt by the administration to suppress the NIE Report and the fact that it was publicly released are signs of just how overstretched the Pentagon is as it faces massive popular resistance in both Iraq and Afghanistan.But Bush, speaking to the press after the release of the NIE report, could only say, “Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will continue to be dangerous.” Bush’s trip to the region is seen as another attempt to ratchet up a confrontation with Iran. Just before departing, Bush’s repetitive message was: “Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat, and Iran will continue to be a threat.”
Gulf of Tonkin ‘incident’ in 1964
It is important to remember that the massive U.S. bombing of Vietnam and the Johnson administration’s escalation of the war was preceded by reports of an attack on a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam—which years later was finally admitted to be phony.
On Aug. 2 and 4, 1964, the Pentagon claimed that small Vietnamese boats had fired on the USS Maddox and another destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. Lyndon Johnson used this “attack” as pretext for ramming a resolution through Congress giving him the power and funds to wage war on Vietnam.
Johnson’s own papers later revealed it was a fraud, and then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara admitted in the film “Fog of War” that the whole incident had been phony.The U.S. military has prepared a plan to attack more than 10,000 possible targets inside Iran, which could destroy the country’s entire infrastructure.Nearly all the Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress, including the present major contenders for the presidential nomination, voted for resolutions against Iran. In a staged or fraudulent confrontation with Iran, with wild charges from the corporate-owned media, Congressional opposition is highly unlikely.
It is vital that the anti-war movement be on full alert regarding the danger of wider war with Iran. It could well start, as it did in Vietnam, with a staged “provocation.”As in both Vietnam and in Iraq today, once the Pentagon initiates a war of colonial conquest it can drag on for many years at a cost of millions of lives and untold destruction. But in the long run the popular determination to resist occupation is more powerful than the Pentagon’s deadliest weapons.
Flounders is coordinator of the Stop the War on Iran Campaign, a project of the International Action Center.