) - 2008 U.S.–Iranian
2008 U.S.–Iranian naval dispute
|Strait of Hormuz |
|Resolved peacefully |
| United States Navy || Iranian Navy |
|3 warships ||5 patrol boats |
The 2007–2008 US-Iranian naval dispute refers to a series of naval stand-offs between Iranian speedboats and U.S. Navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz in December 2007 and January 2008.
- 1 Incident
- 2 Historical context
- 3 Territorial context
- 4 See also
- 5 References
IncidentMap of Strait of Hormuz with maritime political boundaries6 January 2008: Iranian speedboats maneuver near US Navy ships
On 6 January 2008, five Iranian patrol boats crewed by the Revolutionary Guard approached three U.S. Navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz: the cruiser USS Port Royal, the destroyer USS Hopper and the frigate USS Ingraham. In a compilation of video and audio released by the Pentagon of the most provocative moments of the encounter, the radio officer of the USS Hopper is seen and heard attempting to make radio contact with the Iranian vessels. A few moments later, another voice radioed the USS Hopper saying, "I am coming at you. You will explode minutes."
Early U.S. reports indicated that because the Iranian boats continued to circle the U.S. warships and had been seen to drop several packages into the water, the U.S. ships had no choice but to take the threats seriously and maintain a defensive posture. Pentagon officials said the American ships were about to open fire when the Iranian boats withdrew. The commander of the destroyer USS Hopper publicly denied that the American ships were about to open fire.
U.S. officials said the Iranians "harassed and provoked" their naval vessels, coming within 200 yards (180 m) of one warship. Iranian officials responded by calling the incident a routine contact of a sort that happens all the time in the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf. In response, on 8 January 2008 the Department of Defense released an abridged four-minute video segment of the audio and video recordings of the incident that included the radio threat. An Iranian Revolutionary Guard source stated, "The footage released by the US Navy are file pictures and the audio has been fabricated" On 10 January 2008, Iran accused the U.S. of creating a "media fuss". The Iranian PressTV then released its own abridged video of the incident, where no threats can be heard. The U.S. later released a 36 minute video of the incident.
There has been confusion as to the source of the threatening radio transmissions. Persian-speakers and Iranians have told The Washington Post that the accent in the American recording does not sound Iranian. The New York Times pointed out that the U.S.-released audio includes no ambient noise of the kind that might be expected if the broadcast had come from on one of the speedboats. The Navy Times wrote that the incident could have been caused by a locally famous heckler known as the "Filipino monkey", noting that the threatening voice sounds different from that of the Iranian officer. Several media outlets reported that the Navy spliced the audio recording of the alleged Iranian threat onto to a videotape of the incident.
The Pentagon spokesman who described the Iranian boats as "highly maneuverable patrol craft" that were "visibly armed" did not note that such boats usually only carry a two- or three-man crew and that they are normally armed only with machine guns. The only boat that was close enough to be visible to the U.S. ships was unarmed, as an enlarged photo of the boat from the navy video shows.
On 12 January 2008, it was revealed that, contrary to previous reports, the packages the Iranian boats had dropped into the water posed no threat to the U.S. vessels. The leading U.S. vessels observed that they were harmless light floating objects and did not report them to following U.S. vessels as a danger.
Lieutenant John Gay of the fifth Fleet later said, "There is no way to know where this (radioed threat) exactly came from. It could have come from the shore... or another vessel in the area"
On 12 January 2008, two earlier incidents during December 2007 were revealed by U.S. Navy officials, one in which the USS Whidbey Island fired warning shots in response to a small Iranian boat which was approaching it on 19 December. The Iranian boat reportedly then retreated after the shots were fired.
In an 8 July speech to the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Shirazi, a mid-level clerical aide to Iran''s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, "The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran''s first targets and they will be burned," according to the student news agency ISNA.
The presence of U.S. warships in the Strait has been a sensitive issue for Iran since 3 July 1988, when the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Vincennes (CG-49) shot down an Iranian commercial flight in Iranian airspace over the Strait, killing 290 civilians, an incident for which the U.S. never apologized, though it did provide monetary compensation.
To travel through the Strait of Hormuz, which at its narrowest is 21 nautical miles (39 km) wide, ships pass through the territorial waters of Iran and Oman under the transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Neither Iran or the U.S. have ratified the convention, but the U.S. accepts the traditional navigation rules as reflected in the Convention. Iran has stated that it reserves "the right to require prior authorization for warships to exercise the right of innocent passage through its territorial sea." It is unclear if the incident happened in the territorial waters of Iran or Oman.
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