Provocation in the Strait of Hormuz

Cross Posted at OOIBC and SanchoPress

If the Iranians attack a US ship in the gulf, or shut down the strait, it will be, in historical context, retribution and retaliation for US Foreign Policy and imperialism over the past century, and we will be as much or more to blame than they.

We get what we give. As we sow, so we reap.

Imperialism is coming home to bite us on the ass, bigtime. It has been coming for a long time…

In about a year, when there will probably be a Democratic President sitting in The White House, we’re going to have the same “Foreign Policy” we’ve had for the past nearly a century.

Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing changing.

“Ancient History”: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly Of Intervention

If the chief natural resource of the Middle East were bananas, the region would not have attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers as it has for decades. Americans became interested in the oil riches of the region in the 1920s, and two U.S. companies, Standard Oil of California and Texaco, won the first concession to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. They discovered oil there in 1938, just after Standard Oil of California found it in Bahrain. The same year Gulf Oil (along with its British partner Anglo-Persian Oil) found oil in Kuwait. During and after World War II, the region became a primary object of U.S. foreign policy. It was then that policymakers realized that the Middle East was “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”

Subsequently, as a result of cooperation between the U.S. government and several American oil companies, the United States replaced Great Britain as the chief Western power in the region.(5) In Iran and Saudi Arabia, American gains were British (and French) losses.(6) Originally, the dominant American oil interests had had limited access to Iraqi oil only (through the Iraq Petroleum Company, under the 1928 Red Line Agreement). In 1946, however, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Mobil Oil Corp., seeing the irresistible opportunities in Saudi Arabia, had the agreement voided.(7) When the awakening countries of the Middle East asserted control over their oil resources, the United States found ways to protect its access to the oil. Nearly everything the United States has done in the Middle East can be understood as contributing to the protection of its long-term access to Middle Eastern oil and, through that control, Washington’s claim to world leadership. The U.S. build-up of Israel and Iran as powerful gendarmeries beholden to the United States, and U.S. aid given to “moderate,” pro-Western Arab regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, were intended to keep the region in friendly hands. That was always the meaning of the term “regional stability.”

Provocation in the Strait of Hormuz

By Marc Ash, t r u t h o u t | Perspective, Tuesday 08 January 2008

Two separate news reports relying mostly on information provided by the Pentagon were picked up and disseminated by US mainstream media outlets Monday. The reports point to two separate instances involving US armed forces operating in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

 The first, typified by The New York Times, “US Describes Confrontation With Iranian Boats”, and the second, tucked away from the features sections, “Navy Fighter Jets Crash in Persian Gulf”, reported by the Associated Press, are not connected directly in the reports, but bear consideration side-by-side nonetheless.

 The report in The Times, in fact, tells you everything you need to know, albeit in a conclusionless form. US Warships are in the Persian Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz, through which all warships must pass to enter the Gulf, is the same passage through which all oil-bearing ships must pass bringing oil to the US. And “Oil prices on world markets spiked briefly on the news, which was first reported by CNN.” That pretty much says it all.

 US Navy warships are parked a few miles off the coast of Iran. They are there, apparently, to protect oil shipping lanes into and out of the Persian Gulf. Tensions are mounting. If provocation is at issue, those facts must remain front and center. If Iranian warships ever made it as close to the American coastline as US warships now lie to Iranian shores, our military would in all likelihood attack them. Iran is not attacking our warships – parked on their doorstep.

 The US State Department last year warned Iran, “not to interfere with US interests in the region.” What the State Department did not explain to the American people is what interests average Americans have in the region. The answer to that question is, likely none. That leads to the next question: whose interests is the American Navy protecting in the Persian Gulf? The owners of the oil tankers, apparently. The American people are the end consumers; we pay what’s marked on the pump. Bluntly stated, the United States Navy appears to be in the Persian Gulf to protect the interests of US-based oil businesses, not the interests of the American people. Incidentally, the second-largest deposits of oil in the world lie beneath the soil of Iraq, so the same formula applies there as well.

 Could Iranian forces sink an American ship a few miles off the Iranian coast? Yes, although it is highly unlikely that they would say beforehand, “I am coming at you, and you will explode in a few minutes.” Would such a sinking take the lives of many good American sailors? Yes, it would. Such a sinking and the attendant loss of life would affect the best interests of the American people. The American armed forces are the true interest of the American people. For too long, the American people have turned a blind eye to their interest: their service members. It’s time to bring our soldiers home and let the gas station mind its own business.

*emphasis added

This cannot be taken out of historical context. To do so is the “neocon” way.

If anyone is doing any “provocatin’” in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, it has been successive US and British administrations, and oil companies, for nearly a century…


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    • Edger on January 8, 2008 at 19:52
  1. lead to “engagement”.  I agree totally that if it weren’t for the oil, we wouldn’t have the current level of military presence in the region.  

    The fact that there is so much traffic in a relatively small area of water could easily lead to “miscommunications”, some spontaneous “cat & mouse” actions, and unintended escalations.  

    Since the USS Cole was bombed and since other events, unidentified vessels who get too close to USN ships could easily be targeted.  There is a point where a decision to fire has to be made in a matter of seconds, and there must certainly be training and standing orders for what are the determinations of when to fire.,

    I just hope that the next President and Congress will finally get serious about ending our dependence on foreign oil–for the sake of the environment as well as lessening the tensions between nations in a constant battle over natural resources.  

  2. oil embargo (if not much sooner)–apparently not.

  3. This image released by the US Navy was shot Sunday from the bridge of the destroyer USS Hopper, shows a small blue boat, alleged to be Iranian, purportedly racing near the wake of U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. The incident, which President George W. Bush denounced Tuesday as a “provocative act,” was videotaped by a crew member on the bridge of the destroyer.  (U.S. Navy/ AP Photo )

    US Releases Dramatic Video of Iran Boat Incident — Tape Shows Iranian Boats Surrounding U.S. War Ships, Ignoring Order to Leave

    Do you see any weapons?  Why aren’t these ferocious looking individuals equipped with helmets, body armor, etc.?

    I don’t see how journalists could possibly hold their heads up when they continue to produce crap like this!!  

  4. The “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” triggered our involvement into the Vietnam war!!

    From Raw Story:

    That’s something I have never heard before,” Steven Aftergood, director of the FAS project on government secrecy, told AFP.

    (But) he said that probably the “most historically significant feature” of the declassified report was the retelling of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident.

    That was a reported North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers that helped lead to president Lyndon Johnson’s sharp escalation of American forces in Vietnam.

    The author of the report “demonstrates that not only is it not true, as (then US) secretary of defense Robert McNamara told Congress, that the evidence of an attack was ‘unimpeachable,’ but that to the contrary, a review of the classified signals intelligence proves that ‘no attack happened that night,'” FAS said in a statement.

    “What this study demonstrated is that the available intelligence shows that there was no attack. It’s a dramatic reversal of the historical record,” Aftergood said.

    “There were previous indications of this but this is the first time we have seen the complete study,” he said.

    • Edger on January 9, 2008 at 14:04

    …comes from official and mostly unnamed sources who were nowhere in the vicinity of the Strait, and comes filtered through journalists who often don’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Much of the reportage is also conspicuously contradictory.

       The Australian’s statement that “U.S. forces were ‘literally’ on the verge of firing on the Iranian boats” and “had moved to man their guns when the Iranians turned and sped away” is a prime example of every flaw in the narrative. If U.S. forces were just then moving to man their guns as the Iranians turned and sped away, they were closer to the verge of sleep than of firing on anybody. Those guns, almost certainly 50 caliber machine guns placed on the American ships’ weather decks, were either manned when the ships set condition Zebra prior to entering the Strait or those skippers will be handing their command pins over to the three-star in command of Fifth Fleet by the end of next week.


       And from whom are we getting the cockamamie account of the U.S. ships preparing to fire just as the Iranians turned and high tailed it? Reuters’ Andrew Gray pretty much coughed up a confession: “Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said after the Iranian threats a U.S. captain was in the process of ordering sailors to open fire when the Iranian boats moved away.”

       Pentagon officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Jesus, Larry and Curly. How long will the big media allow these yahooligans to use it as a propaganda venue?

       According to Burns, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini played down the incident, calling it, “…something normal that takes place every now and then for each party.” And Defense Secretary Robert Gates allowed as how there had been two or three similar incidents-“maybe not quite as dramatic”-over the past year, but he offered no details.

       So who knows what exactly happened in the Strait Monday morning? I sure don’t, but I’ll tell you something I do know. U.S. and Iranian naval units have been playing patty cake in the Strait and the Persian Gulf with each other since the tanker wars of the 1980s. […] The skippers and crews of the American warships had to have been prepared for what they saw on Monday.


       So like Bhutto’s assassination, the Turks bombing of the Kurds, and other recent fiascos, Monday’s incident in the Strait of Hormuz was worth noting as yet another example of how far American policy has run adrift under the Bush administration’s stewardship.

       But it was nothing to take to your backyard fallout shelter over.

    Iran Aweigh (Again), by Jeff Huber

    (Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) was operations officer of a naval air wing and an aircraft carrier, and he commanded an E-2C Hawkeye aircraft squadron)

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