The U.S. Navy released video showing unidentified speedboats closing in on Navy ships. While the speedboat’s movements are certainly provocative and the Iranian claims that the video was fabricated are clearly preposterous, the voice on the radio saying “I am coming at you. You will explode in a few minutes” deserves some scrutiny.
There are two things to keep in mind here. First off, these ships and boats are operating in the Strait of Hormuz: one of the busiest waterways on the planet. Also, these communications likely took place on marine channel 16: the emergency or hailing channel. Any boater can tell you that marine channel 16 is like a giant party line: everyone can and does transmit on it, emergency or not. Put a large number of ships in a boring sea like the Persian Gulf and at least one shipdriver is guaranteed to crack wise on the radio.
Take a listen to the man saying “I am coming at you.” Does it sound like he’s shouting over the roar of a speedboat’s engines? No, it sounds like he’s in a quiet pilothouse. Now, there are ways the Navy can pinpoint a transmitter’s location but there is no indication this was done.
There would be little proof the speedboats were Iranian if the Iranian government hadn’t claimed them by calling the incident an “ordinary occurrence.” Still, I question why Iran would want to all but dare the Navy to open fire on them, which is what nearly happened. What purpose would be served?
In summary, the boats were extremely provocative towards the U.S. Navy ships, to the point of almost getting themselves sunk. The radio transmissions, however, were probably the work of some bored jackass whose actions added fuel to what may have been a very large fire.
Bush is headed to the Middle East next week. Maybe Iran just wanted to provoke an international incident to distract from whatever it is they think he might accomplish while there.