Pentagon unsure if Iran threatened to blow up Navy ships

U.S. Navy via Getty Images In the U.S. Navy’s footage of the Iranian speedboat incident in the Strait of Hormuz, the video cuts off at the end, the screen goes black, and a voice comes on in accented English “I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes.” For the crews onboard ...

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597155_080910_speedboat_05.jpg
PERSIAN GULF - JANUARY 6: In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy on January 8, 2008, small craft suspected to be from the Islamic Republic of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Navy (IRGCN), maneuver aggressively in close proximity of the U.S. Navy Aegis-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) and frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61) January 6, 2008 in the Persian Gulf. All three ships were steaming in formation and had just completed a routine Strait of Hormuz transit. Coalition vessels, including U.S. Navy ships, routinely operate in the vicinity of both Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and IRGCN vessels and aircraft, without incident. (Photo by U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

U.S. Navy via Getty Images

In the U.S. Navy's footage of the Iranian speedboat incident in the Strait of Hormuz, the video cuts off at the end, the screen goes black, and a voice comes on in accented English "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes."

For the crews onboard the U.S. vessels, it must have been a pretty chilling thing to hear. But now, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet says nobody's sure where the voice came from:

U.S. Navy via Getty Images

In the U.S. Navy’s footage of the Iranian speedboat incident in the Strait of Hormuz, the video cuts off at the end, the screen goes black, and a voice comes on in accented English “I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes.”

For the crews onboard the U.S. vessels, it must have been a pretty chilling thing to hear. But now, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet says nobody’s sure where the voice came from:

We’re saying that we cannot make a direct connection to the boats there,” said the spokesperson. “It could have come from the shore, from another ship passing by. However, it happened in the middle of all the very unusual activity, so as we assess the information and situation, we still put it in the total aggregate of what happened Sunday morning. I guess we’re not saying that it absolutely came from the boats, but we’re not saying it absolutely didn’t.”

As the New York Times noted this morning, the recording doesn’t include the kind of noises you might expect to hear in the background as someone gallivants around in a speedboat. Iran released its own video, in which a voice says in English, “Coalition warship number 73 this is an Iranian patrol.” So the situation has gotten murky, which makes for great political theater.

And yet, the dispute over the warning is kind of beside the point. Threatening voice aside, the Iranian patrols shouldn’t have been messing around the way they did (if anything, the U.S. Navy crews showed admirable restraint, given what was going on), but nor should the U.S. military and President Bush have made such a big deal of this incident without knowing all the facts. At first, the Iranian Foreign Ministry was quick to downplay the incident, which ought to have been a clear enough signal of the regime’s intentions. But now that national pride is on the line, hardliners in the Republican Guard—whose local allies may have deliberately provoked this incident—are the only ones who will benefit from continued confrontation. Don’t feed the beast.

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