Ya-Hussayn. Photo: U.S. Navy

Last week the VBSS team from the USS Kidd (DDG 100) boarded the Al Molai, an Iranian flagged fishing dhow, and freed a 13-man Iranian crew. The 15 pirates, ‘suspected pirates’, were using the dhow, ‘allegedly’, to conduct mother-ship operations in the Indian Ocean.

At the sight of the SH-60s and the mighty warship Kidd, the pirates decided discretion was the better part of valor and threw their weapons overboard and surrendered at once. Images taken after the boarding show an extremely grateful Iranian crew hugging American sailors and being sent on their way with USS Kidd ballcaps, water, food, and a smile.

Yesterday, there was yet another story of American vigilance and courage at sea as US Coast Guard cutter Monomoy saved six Iranian mariners from their disabled dhow, the Ya-Hussayn, in the North Arabian Gulf.

According to a statement from George Little, Pentagon Press Secretary, the Monomoy’s attention was alerted by flares and flashlight at 3am (local) from the crew of the Ya-Hussayn. The engine room was flooding and things were going south fast, said the dhow’s master, “without your help, we were dead.”

Of course Iranian “news agencies”, are reporting these incidents are mere U.S. propaganda.

High stakes theater or not, as Iran threatens to block Hormuz Strait, Washington is pushing right back on Tehran in all the right places…and while it’s unlikely that the effects of sanctions will have the desired result of turning the Iranian people against Khamenei, it might set the conditions for the necessary Persian Gulf two step that is about to ensue.

Does Tehran really want a conventional surface warfare showdown in the Indian Ocean or Persian Gulf?

No matter the affects of sanctions on the true sentiment (and living conditions) of the people on Valiasr Street (and it will affect them), I have to think that the institutional memory from the 1987/88 tanker wars remain and the Admiralty surely wishes to avoid a conventional surface engagement with any grey hull in 5th Fleet.

But then again, ‘unlikely’ battles are often begun with the inverse of just that logic. Cannons fire when we operate under the assumption that prudence, institutional memory and history have any real leverage over politics, emotion, and cynical, desperate fear mongers with too much power and too little time.

Posted by Alexander Martin in Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy

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  • Richard M.

    Well said my man. We’ve been noticing out here that the Iranians are ramping up their surface posture now that we’re no longer really engaged with Iraq. My guess is it’s an attempt to leverage power in the region.

  • Jay

    Blah. Iran postures…oil prices go up, Iran benefits, short term.

  • eastriver

    The cycle is best described in the Economist here: http://www.economist.com/node/21542476

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Passing off Iran’s actions as a mere ploy to raise oil prices is rather a simplistic and naive view.

    While the raising of oil prices may be a result, Iran is testing the resolve of the West, especially the United States, and its willingness to challenge them in their flexing of muscles to establish regional dominance.

    The Economist cartoon, while amusing and containing some truth, does not account for Iran or its leaders making a miscalculation, or one of Iran’s neighbors (or the United States) reacting in a way Iran did not foresee.

    Does Iran really want a conventional showdown? Not yet. When they sense that we lack either the will or the means to do much about it without unacceptable risk, then they will.

  • eastriver

    URR is of course correct concerning miscalculation or unforeseen actions.

    Concerning oil price, there is speculation among industry analysts in the business press that a large oil customer such as China could actually command a 10 to 15% discount per barrel from Iran due to the increased uncertainty of product delivery.

    Of course, that would not bear on the world market price.

  • Russia would benefit from war in the gulf. Their oil price would skyrocket, and thus their control over Europe.

  • Chief B

    I prefer the term Arabian Gulf to Persian Gulf as it makes it clear that Iran does not own that particular body of water.