Porter: Well, this alleged crisis or confrontation on the high seas is really much less than what met the eyes of the American public as it was reported by news media. And the story really began from leaks from the Pentagon. I mean, there were Pentagon officials apparently calling reporters and telling them that something had happened in the Strait of Hormuz, which represented a threat to American ships and that there was a near battle on the high seas. The way it was described to reporters, it was made to appear to be a major threat to the ships and a major threat of war. And that's the way it was covered by CNN, by CBS and other networks, as well as by print media.And, on the other side of the "who spun what?" coin, Jim Lobe notes the relative silence of the bomb-Iran crowd and points to:
the possibility that the Navy and the Pentagon chose to dramatize the incident not so much to isolate and embarrass Iran as to enhance the chances for a new “incidents- at-sea” agreement that they have been pushing on the White House without success for many months now.He continues with cites of articles by military-friendly journalists on that very subject and writes:
It’s been no secret for some time now that the Pentagon, and the head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Adm. William Fallon, in particular, have been pressing the White House — without success — for negotiating a new “incidents at sea” agreement with Iran that would reduce the risk of a an accidental confrontation in the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf itself.Maybe. I'd much rather Lobe was right but I fear Gareth Poretr has it when he says:
there's no doubt that the motivation for the Pentagon to blow this incident up was precisely the timing of President Bush leaving on a trip to the Middle East, in which one of his major purposes was to try to keep together a coalition of Arab states...So this is definitely part of the reason, very clearly, that what was a very minor incident which did not threaten US ships, as far as we can tell from all the evidence so far, was turned into what was presented as a confrontation and a threat of war.(Hat tip for both articles to Cursor.)
Update Another bit of spin. Via War In Context to the Asia Times and expert testimony from Kaveh L Afrasiabi:
Tension spiked markedly last week when Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) speedboats were involved in an "incident" with three US Navy vessels, which claimed they were international waters.There's far more detail on what the rules say about this at the Asia Times link. UNCLOS Article 34 says that "warships transiting the Straits of Hormuz must act as non-war ships, 'temporarily depriving themselves of their armed might'. And any 'warning shots' fired by US ships at Iranian boats, inspecting the US ships under customary international laws, must be considered an infringement on Iran's rights". Moreover, flying military helicopters off ships, as seen in the full pentagon tape, is not allowed.
Paul Woodward at War In Context writes:
Let’s repeat that: there are no international waters in the Straits of Hormuz. The U.S. ships were in Iranian territorial waters exercising the “right of transit passage” afforded to them in international law by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which the United States has signed but which Congress has yet to ratify. This is why in the video of the incident, a U.S. naval officer can be heard saying, “I am engaged in transit passage in accordance with international law.”Amazingly, the US Navy, who according to some are unimpeachable officers and gentlemen of the kind that were largely a myth even back in Napoleonic times, utterly forgot to mention any of this.
Update 2 Commenter Grand Moff Texan raises an intriguing possibility. Since at the time of the "buzzing" the US vessels were "in transit passage in accordance with international law" - that is, not in international waters - and during the mysterious "voice" transmission say that they are in international waters, there's a fair possibility that the two were separate by considerable time and space from each other and only conflated later for propaganda purposes.