Last Friday, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to reporters at the Pentagon about the recent incident in the Strait of Hormuz where five Iranian speedboats were alleged to have harassed three major U.S. warships.
An immediate White House statement urged the Iranians to “refrain from such provocative actions that could lead to a dangerous incident.” Mullen uttered the same talking points in his press conference, claiming he had never seen something as “provocative and dramatic.” But just five minutes later, Mullen conceded he hadn’t actually seen the full tape of the encounter:
MULLEN: The — there have been other situations where certainly ships transiting the Straits of Hormuz have been approached. To my knowledge, I have not seen one as both provocative and dramatic as this.
Q: Is there any reason why the full videotape of the entire episode can’t be released?
MULLEN: I know the secretary’s got it. We’re considering it, and I can’t say it will be addressed this afternoon, but I know that request is there. From my perspective, first of all, I haven’t seen the full video myself. But I’ve been told about it and I’m told there’s nothing, you know, particularly inconsistent or alarming with it from that perspective.
In the days following the initial media reports of the Iranian encounter in the Persian Gulf, the Bush administration has offered a dissembling response to three key elements of the alleged threat:
1. The Dangerous Verbal Threat. Initial media reports said that a “threatening radio call from the Iranians” warned that the U.S. “ships would explode.” Later, we learned that the verbal threat may not have come from an Iranian, and may instead have been the voice of a famous heckler.
2. The Boxes In The Water. After the verbal threat, the Iranian boats were observed “dropping objects in the water.” But as the Washington Post reported, U.S. ships at the time of the incident determined the boxes “posed no threat to the American vessels.” “After passing the white objects, commanders on the USS Port Royal and its accompanying destroyer and frigate decided there was so little danger from the objects that they did not bother to radio other ships to warn them.”
3. Boats Coming At The Ships. Initial media reports said “the Iranians ‘maneuvered aggressively’ in the direction of the U.S. ships.” But as the video shows, “the only boat that was close enough to be visible to the U.S. ships was unarmed.” “The footage of the boats maneuvering provides no visual evidence of Iranian boats ‘making a run on U.S. ships.'”
Piggybacking off the media reports of the “provocative” encounter with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, Bush has sounded the urgent need to confront Iran at almost every stop along his Middle East journey.
UPDATE: Newshoggers has more. Watch the full video of the incident here: