Today, 3 US Navy warships, guided missile destroyer USS Hopper, Guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal, and guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham were harrassed, threatened and provoked by 3 Iranian fast boats as they entered the strait of Hormuz. One of the Iranian boats came within 200 yards of one US ship. An Iranian spokesman called the event "ordinary", and seemed to imply that the US ships failed to respond when asked to identify themselves. It is still unclear whether or not this is true. I'm inclined to take it as reckless speculation, best case scenario. At worst its a deliberate attempt to fault the US for the confrontation. At any rate, one Iranian boat made the following radio transmission, "I am coming at you, and you will explode in a couple of minutes". At this point, The US vessels guns were manned and the order to fire was in the process of being given, when the Iranian craft abruptly turned and sped away, dropping white boxes into the path of one US vessel. It is still unclear what the white boxes were. During the incident, which lasted about 30 minutes, no shots were fired and no one was injured.
The Iranian fast boats were all operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a seperate branch of the Iranian military that has been taken over for Iranian naval action since November, according to the US. The IRGC tends to act in a much more hostile manner towards US vessels, compared to the Iranian navy, remark informed military sources.
The Pentagon has characterized the incident as "careless, reckless and potentially hostile" and has said an explanation is in order. The US responded with further rhetoric, with Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon Press Secretary saying "Such actions are dangerous and could have quickly escalated into something much worse,". A Pentagon spokesman also calling the event "perplexing" adding that this is a "real cause for concern".
What's the deal with the white boxes? Could they be meant to be taken as mines, in order to gauge the response to such a situation? Might they actually be some sort of improvised mine? I don't know, and neither country has offered any explanation.
The other Major question is why now? Actions like this can only further complicate US-Iranian relations, which while currently almost nonexistent, except for acidic rhetoric, recently received a boost. The latest NIE essentially lets Iran off the hook since 2003 in regards to nuclear activities. the only explanation to this that I've found is the logical assumption that someone, presumably a hardliner in the IRGC wants to further destabilize relations between the US and Iran. However whom, and whether this actually was the intended consequence remains a mystery.
Today in CO-IN
Today marks the beginning of an irregular feature called Today in CO-IN. Each feature we'll examine an event or trend in the Mideast and how Counter-Insurgency theory can help us understand what's going on, and what happens next.