NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Unscrambling Iranian-U.S. communications

What to make of the Iranian videotape

Iran has now aired a video of the incident in the Straits of Hormuz on Sunday, and according to the wire services (AP, AFP, Reuters) the video stresses routine and not confrontation.

As I said yesterday, the Iranians on Sunday wanted to send a not-so-subtle message to their Persian Gulf neighbors that they could disrupt the flow of oil and that any U.S.-Iranian confrontation would hurt the pocketbooks of the ruling sheiks. Now, by issuing a video that seems to call into question the authenticity of the Pentagon videotape, Iran seeks a bigger victory with international public opinion.

At this point, Washington has two choices: It can release every shred of intelligence and information it has in an attempt to show how the Iranians are lying. Or it can let the matter drop and focus instead averting these types of incidents in the future. If it chooses the latter, it may find that Iran is a more willing partner than it appears. What Tehran is saying, after all, is quite similar to what the U.S. Navy is saying. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — Let’s suppose that the Pentagon had never released its own video (the one to which it added an audio track) — that it had simply issued a statement describing the Hormuz incident — and that the Iranian video that has now been broadcast came under critical scrutiny. Suppose the Pentagon then announced that after having analysed the Iranian videotape, they had determined that the audio came from a different source than the images. Would the Pentagon refrain from describing this as a “fabrication”? Almost certainly not — and neither would many news editors in the U.S. media be reluctant to run headlines referring to the “Fabricated Iranian Video.”

Official version of naval incident starts to unravel

Despite the official and media portrayal of the incident in the Strait of Hormuz early Monday morning as a serious threat to US ships from Iranian speedboats that nearly resulted in a “battle at sea,” new information over the past three days suggests that the incident did not involve such a threat and that no US commander was on the verge of firing at the Iranian boats.

The new information that appears to contradict the original version of the incident includes the revelation that US officials spliced the audio recording of an alleged Iranian threat onto to a videotape of the incident. That suggests that the threatening message may not have come in immediately after the initial warning to Iranian boats from a US warship, as it appears to do on the video. [complete article]

Forging ties with Iran

There is widespread feeling overseas that the consequences of the judgment that Tehran has suspended its nuclear weapons program should be positive, not punitive. To be sure, the Islamic Republic still has nuclear ambitions, and its expanded uranium enrichment capacity is certainly worrisome. Nonetheless, dialogue and diplomacy are still the best means of mitigating the Iranian challenge. And despite President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s odious rhetoric and the reckless behavior of Iranian speedboats, there is reason to believe that Tehran may be open to such an approach.

While some have depicted Iran as a rash, militant state imbued with messianic fervor, the clerical state today is an unexceptional opportunistic power seeking to exert preponderance in its immediate neighborhood. Gone are the heady revolutionary days when Iran viewed projection of influence as necessitating the subversion of the incumbent Arab regimes. [complete article]

See also, Iran shows its own video of vessels’ encounter in Gulf (NYT) and US protests Iran harassment of US ships (AP).

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