Tuesday, January 08, 2008
First, 200 meters is too close, and it would be no surprise if the Navy's rules of engagement are reviewed in the light of this incident. News stories say that the ships went to general quarters when they received the threatening radio message, and one story I read said the skipper of USS Hopper was "in the process" of giving the order to open fire when the Iranians broke off. Too bad--it would have been interesting to see how long one of those boats would last in the sights of a good gunner on the chain gun.
I suspect the incident was designed with many goals in mind. First, the whole event, especially the action of dropping boxes in the path of our ships, was probably a probe to see how we would react so as to reveal any weak spots in our defensive tactics that could be exploited later, and possibly the first of many such incidents intended to lull our people into letting their guard down so a lethal package down the road might actually do damage. If the latter I don't think it will work. And I don't think the US Navy would react as um, softly as the Royal Navy did when their guys got captured, in the face of a blatant act of war by the Iranians.
I think the Iranians were also sending the message to the world that they regard the Strait of Hormuz as their territorial waters, irrespective of international law/convention, and to demonstrate that they can wreak havoc on the delivery system for Middle East oil. I also think the incident might have been a propaganda setup to show that the Iranian regime can and will go one-on-one with the United States, because image and reputation are so important in the ME and to send a message to the other ME states in connection with President Bush's impending visit there.