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US Releases Video of Naval Incident With Iran


The U.S. Defense Department has released video and sound of the incident Sunday in the Persian Gulf, when small boats believed to be from Iran's Revolutionary Guard force menaced three U.S. Navy ships. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The Pentagon video opens with a communicator on the bridge of the USS Hopper attempting to contact the Iranian boats when they are about three kilometers away.

"This is coalition warship. I am engaged in transit passage in accordance with international law."

But the Iranian ships do not respond, and continue to approach the Hopper and two other U.S. Navy ships at high speed. There is another radio call from the navy, interrupted by a ship's klaxon, sounded to warn the Iranians in case their radios are not working.

"Five unidentified small surface contacts, inbound [toward] coalition warships. [Klaxon sounds] You are approaching coalition warships. [Klaxon continues]"

One Iranian boat offers this ominous-sounding response.

"I am coming to you."

As the video shows two of the small, blue Iranian motor boats running alongside the USS Ingraham at close range, and then circling behind it, the Hopper's communicators continue to try to make contact, and warn the Iranians they may be fired on if they do not turn away.

"Your identity is not known. Your intentions are unclear. You are standing into danger and may be subject to defensive measures. Request you alter course immediately to remain clear."

Then one of the Iranian boats broadcasts another threat.

"You will explode after two minutes."

The voice says, "You will explode after two minutes." It is about that time that the navy says two Iranian boats dropped white boxes into the water, but that can not be seen on the video. Officials say the navy ships' responses were escalating toward possibly opening fire on one or more of the Iranian boats, when they suddenly turn away, after about half an hour of threatening maneuvers and radio calls.

An Iranian statement called the encounter "normal," and said the Iranian crews were trying to identify the American ships.

Preparing to leave for his trip to the Middle East Tuesday, President Bush called the Iranian actions provocative and dangerous, and said the incident should not have happened. He said Iran continues to be a threat to the region.

Also speaking Tuesday, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle Eastern Affairs, Mark Kimmitt, said Sunday's incident in the Gulf is evidence of what he called a "pretty aggressive, hegemonic" policy by Iran. He said Iran goes out of its way "to continue to be a destabilizing factor in Iraq."

"I can think of many, many reasons why there has been a significant reduction in violence in Iraq," said Mark Kimmitt. "In my personal list, I don't see Iran on that list."

Kimmitt told an audience at the Heritage Foundation, a research group, it is still not clear whether Iran has stopped providing high-powered explosives and other weapons to Iraqi insurgents.

"I wait to see the intelligence report that conclusively demonstrates that Iran is being helpful," he said. "I have not yet seen that intelligence report."

He says suggestions that Iran might have stopped the weapons flow to Iraq could be based more on hope than on facts.