The Associated Press reports that on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy commenced the largest demonstration of force it has conducted in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The exercise involves 15 warships, including two aircraft carriers, and more than 100 combat aircraft.
At U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors--nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic [Iran], whose navy operates in the same waters.
Oh, no. The last thing we'd be conducting a major naval operation in the Gulf right now would be for the purpose of shouting "boo" at Iran.
Aandahl also said that, "What it should be seen as by Iran or anyone else is that it's for regional stability and security… These ships are just another demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's Iran's behavior."
I'm not sure whom Andahal thinks he's kidding. There's only one "threat" to maritime "stability and security" in the Gulf, and that's Iran. Aandahl is talking public affairs office poppycock.
Dubya and Dubya-er
The showdown between the U.S. and Iran boils down to a manhood measuring contest between young Mr. Bush and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To date, neither president has measured up in the foreign policy game.
Bush has been a puppet of Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives from the beginning, and only those in the non-cognitive hardcore right still support the administration's foreign follies. Iran has been crawling along a razor's edge in an attempt to emerge as a regional superpower, and has taken a lot of risks, especially in its nuclear program and its naval power demonstrations. They may have finally slit themselves open with their grab of 15 British sailors and marines in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
For the life of me, I can't figure out how that happened. It was a colossal screw up, either at higher levels of command or by the on scene commanders.
CNN reported Wednesday that the one woman among the British sailors and marines will be released soon. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told members of Parliament that Britain will impose "a freeze on all other official bilateral business with Iran until this situation is resolved."
The Iranian Embassy in London released a statement on Wednesday stating the detainees are in good condition. "We understand the anxiety of their families, but they must be assured that they are in safe hands and have a better life than the risky mission in the Persian Gulf waters," the statement said.
According to CNN, Iranian hard-liners have pressed their government to charge the British personnel with espionage and put them on trial.
British Vice Admiral Charles Style says that global positioning system information shows the HMS Cornwall, the British frigate involved was 1.7 nautical miles inside of Iraqi waters. Iran says the Cornwall had gone 0.3 miles into Iranian territorial waters.
Britain is coordinating diplomatic efforts with the rest of the European Union and Turkey, but has asked the U.S. to keep a low profile. "They have asked us to keep the rhetoric down and not do anything that would jeopardize their efforts to get the sailors and marines released," one senior official told CNN.
That's a good sign. You know the Brits haven't gone mad when show the common sense to tell Condi Rice's State Department to stay the heck out of a ticklish diplomatic situation.
Mr. Bush still doesn't show any signs of turning cognizant. The House has passed emergency appropriation bills to support our Middle East wars that include withdrawal timelines, and the Senate appears likely to pass similar legislation soon. Bush continues to threaten to veto any bill with timelines that comes across his desk, and says he will hold Democrats responsible if they delay military funding. The Democrats, to their credit, appear to be holding fast.
Our 60 year-old boy emperor has isolated himself so completely that the only friends he has left--at home and abroad--are the neoconservative cabalists who put him into power and got him into the mess he's in, and still, the neocons are the only people he listens to.
So is Bush crazy enough to go for broke and pull the trigger on Iran over the British incident (and over British objections)?
As frightening as it is to say, we can't dismiss the possibility.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.