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Friday, January 11, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water.

Juan Cole comments on the gulf of persian incident

"This episode is just about the most pitiful thing I have seen since Bush came to power, and believe me I've seen plenty."

He is referring to the Iranian speed boats which exchanged communications with a US nave vessel in the straights of Hormuz. and links to the NYT for

' The audio includes a statement that says, “I am coming to you,” and adds, “You will explode after a few minutes.” The voice was recorded from the internationally recognized channel for ship-to-ship communications, Navy officials have said. Naval and Pentagon officials have said that the video and audio were recorded separately, then combined. On Wednesday, Pentagon officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak officially, said they were still trying to determine if the transmission came from the speedboats or elsewhere."

Fred Kaplan (via Paul Kiel) notes that the threat was not mixed with the obnoxious sound of a speed boat motor and so was clearly not coming from the speed boats.

Republican candidates were seriously pissed that the US navy didn't blow the Iranians out of the water. That would have made the incident just like the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which North Vietnamese speed boats did not attack the US navy.

Iran has released a transcript of the whole exchange (without the voice over) including

(IRGC officer, English) Coalition warship seven three. This is Iranian navy patrol boat Tantoma - 16. Over

I think that they better rename that boat. "Tantoma" sounds too much like "Tonkin". I would rename it the "Dick Cheney" or the "Michael Ledeen".

To be serious, Kaplan concludes with a very important point

And yet, as Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, told the Boston Globe's Bryan Bender and Farah Stockman on Monday, the U.S. commanders have no systematic way to halt a conflict if it begins to spiral. "I do not have a direct link with my counterpart in the Iranian Navy," he said. "I do not have a way to communicate directly with the Iranian Navy or [Revolutionary] Guard."

Through the darkest days of the Cold War, Washington and Moscow maintained a hot line. During most of those times, there were parallel forums for communication between the two sides' senior officers. Iran doesn't pose anything remotely resembling the threat that the United States and the Soviet Union posed to each other in those years. Here is yet another reason to establish diplomatic relations with Iran. You don't have to be friends to talk.

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