Saturday, January 12, 2008

Iran, Al-Qaeda, and the Lessons of History

"I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes."

With those words, five Iranian "Boghammers" approached the USS Hopper, USS Port Royal, and the USS Ingraham, which were operating in the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz, this past Sunday, January 6th.

Ignoring repeated warnings broadcast from the U.S. vessels, the Swedish-made boats, capable of attaining high speeds, (manned by the fanatic Iranian Revolutionary Guard, armed with Rocket-Propelled Grenades and machine-guns), continued their provocative approach. Just as the the U.S. warships were about to fire on the boats, the Iranians turned and sped away.

We should have blown them out of the water.

The reluctance to engage what were, obviously, Iranian vessels bent on testing our resolve, can only solidify the view in Tehran that the U.S. does not have the political, or military will, to challenge their efforts to gain regional hegemony.

In light of the recently released, factually and motivationally-questionable National Intelligence Estimate, the window of opportunity that the U.S. still has to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, thereby changing the balance of power in the entire region, is rapidly closing.

How many times in history has weakness in the face of such naked aggression led to more aggression?

In the absence of a French or British response to his remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, (in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles), Adolf Hitler was encouraged to annex Austria in '38, and invade Poland the following year, plunging Europe, and the rest of the world, into WWII.

Throughout the 90s, the U.S. failure to respond to repeated terrorist attacks only encouraged more of the same.

Most specifically, the ineffectual U.S. response to the "Black Hawk Down" incident, and our impotent Somalia policy, in general, actually encouraged Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda to pursue their Jihad against the West. In an interview with ABC News in 1998, Bin Laden said, "The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat."

We didn't learn of Al-Qaeda's involvement in Somalia until 1996, when former Al-Qaeda operative, Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl defected to the U.S.

(A side note: Have you ever noticed how adept the "Drive-By Media" is in securing interviews with the World's thugs and tyrants? If they can find Bin Laden, why can't our military? Although Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is certainly in a delicate situation, perhaps it is time to tell him that he either gets serious about finding Bin Laden, or we are going to send Matt Lauer to Peshawar, with a Special Forces escort, and get him ourselves. )

Once again, the U.S. finds itself in direct conflict with Iran.

In 1987, during the height of the Iran-Iraq War, in response to Iranian attacks on neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. began escorting reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers from their terminals in the Northern Gulf, through the Strait of Hormuz, under the codename Operation Earnest Will.

As part of this effort, the U.S. had staged two oil platform construction barges, named Hercules and Wimbrown VII, in the Northern Gulf, as staging bases for patrols designed to thwart Iranian mining activities and attacks.

On several different occasions, U.S. Marines and Navy SEALs, supported by Army helicopters engaged Iranian forces, killing dozens. These coordinated attacks, along with Operation Praying Mantis, (the U.S. response to the mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts on 14 April 1988), effectively ended the Iranian naval threat in the Gulf at that time.
As the 20th Anniversary of Operation Praying Mantis approaches, and in light of Iran's obvious attempts to acquire nukes, the United States needs to heed the lessons of history, and refuse to back down in the face of Iranian provocation.


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