The Recent Attack On Shipping in the Gulf of Oman

Two commercial shipping vessels were attacked yesterday in the Gulf of Oman. Both vessels and their cargoes will be salvaged, the crews were safely removed, and none of the potentially environmentally damaging cargo – one of the ships was carrying distillates of naptha, the other methanol – appears to have leaked out into the Gulf of Oman. Because of where these attacks occurred, everyone seems to have immediately decided it was Iran. Secretary of State Pompeo went so far as to state it was unequivocally Iran at his press conference yesterday.

Secretary Pompeo eventually changed his statement to US intelligence assesses, from US government. Regardless, it appears that he’s basing a lot of this on the US Navy surveillance footage that was released of an unexploded ordnance (UXO) tech on one of the Iranian rescue teams removing what could be a magnetically attached mine or magnetically attached shaped charge attached to the side of the Kokaku Courageous. The Navy identified the device as a magnetically attached limpet mine, but the video is too grainy to confirm it.

There are problems with the official US position as expressed by Secretary Pompeo.

Chief Wright has far more experience with this than I do, but I’d add that if we had conclusive proof, as Secretary Pompeo claimed yesterday, that Iran had placed these explosive devices, then he would have released that video instead of video of an Iranian UXO tech disarming and removing an unexploded device that is unidentifiable by video prior to the Iranian rescue team beginning rescue operations aboard the attacked ship. Chief Nance, who like Chief Wright, has far more experience with this than I do, has similar concerns.

James Fallow’s sums the problem up for all of us:

The owners of the Kokaku Courageous have now come out and stated that their ship was not attacked with a mine or a shaped charge, rather by an unidentified airborne device – and not by a torpedo.

One of the tankers that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman was struck by a flying object, the ship’s Japanese operator said on Friday, expressing doubt that a mine had been attached to its hull.

But Yutaka Katada, the company’s president, citing accounts from the ship’s crew, said Friday: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”

Please keep in mind that no evidence has actually been provided of who was responsible for last month’s attacks on shipping vessels in the area.

The bigger issue right now is how Secretary Pompeo and Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor Bolton try to spin this and leverage it to get the war they so clearly want. This includes trying to tie all of this back, in some way, shape, and/or form to Afghanistan and/or the Taliban so they can just take action under the existing 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was passed shortly after 9-11. Speaking of pieces of unexploded ordnance lying around waiting to go off…

Until or unless more and better evidence is actually released, all we can do is wait. The only good news in all of this, if there is any good news beyond that no one was seriously injured and no environmental damage appears to have occurred, is that because of the President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ well earned reputation for mendacity, no one, including our allies and partners, is simply accepting the official US position on yesterday’s attacks. The same people that asked all of us to believe that no one on the White House staff asked/ordered the Navy to remove the USS John McCain from the President’s sight while he was in Japan, which was a lie, are the same ones that now want us to accept without question that Iran’s famed and feared IRGC carried out a sloppy operation and did so in such an amateurish way that they got caught red handed. Either these guys are the greatest threat to everyone, everywhere or they’re the Keystone Cops. Pick one, they can’t be both. The President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ chronic inability to tell the truth may actually be the one thing that keeps things from escalating.

Open thread!

133 replies
  1. 1
    trollhattan says:

    At this point think I need to hear from Colin Powell before I make up my mind.

    The still frame showing the hole and the UXO farther forward does make me go “hmmm.”

  2. 2
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: Notice, as Chief Wright did, that this official surveillance video doesn’t have any date or time stamps or any other markings on it.

  3. 3
    TenguPhule says:

    Either these guys are the greatest threat to everyone, everywhere or they’re the Keystone Cops. Pick one, they can’t be both.

    To be fair, Trump has managed to become this impossible task.

  4. 4
    Plato says:

    Surprised the orange fecker didn’t peddle yellow cakes.

  5. 5
    TenguPhule says:

    no one, including our allies and partners, is simply accepting the official US position on yesterday’s attacks.

    Good news in the way a gangrenous limb can still be cut off before it kills the patient.

    Of course, we’re gonna miss that limb.

  6. 6
    TenguPhule says:


    Surprised the orange fecker didn’t peddle yellow cakes.

    Pretty sure they couldn’t risk Trump trying to eat them on the spot.

  7. 7
    trollhattan says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    It also has to be stripped out of the EXIF metadata, because every camera has a clock and automatically adds capture time-date. Many also geotag when the camera has GPS.

  8. 8
    Anonymous At Work says:

    The previous attack also featured points of explosion well above the water line as well with no explanation for why or how that occurred. “Leaping dolphin mine-placement units” seems like the most plausible if it was an Iranian limpet mine. “False flag demo charge” is overall more likely.
    Also, this makes no sense for Iran. The attacks do nothing to drive up ITS oil prices relative to Saudis, et alia, and seemed designed to start a war without delivering a strong first-strike. The only way it makes sense for the Iranians is if they have created proof it wasn’t them, dare the US to attack and release the created proof to discredit the American attack so that they can ease sanctions and get more foreign aid. Which is to say, “thin”.

    Finally, a question regarding hte “flying object” statement by the witnesses. Could you make magnetic limpet mines deliverable by drone or UAV? Would you want to? If you could deliver magnetic limpet mines via disposable drone (like the cheap Wal-mart ones), would it look anything like this? (I would assume you fly them into the side, planting the mine while crashing the drone into the water to sink out of sight)

  9. 9
    Nick Schulig says:

    Next incident will be an attack on the SS Reichstadt.

  10. 10
    Dan Myers says:

    Kushner has been doing shuttle diplomacy between Bibi and MbS. I would not be surprised if they are cooking up a power sharing agreement do divi up the middle east if only someone would get that pesky Iran out of the way. Look for bigger and better provocations. I don’t think MbS would mind killing a few hundred of his people if it would get The US to invade Iran. If he doesn’t have nerve agent I imagine Israel could supply it.

  11. 11
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    Here is the problem with running the kind of govt the US has recently:

    When you ask people to *believe* you, or give your “assessments” the benefit of the doubt, there is no reason that they should.

    Kay has referenced this multiple times. I also believe for the above reasons that should the worst occur and we go to war with Iran, the “rally round the flag” effect won’t happen for Trump. He has no credibility and nobody outside his cult will believe a word he or his officials say.

    What a curious situation we’re in where much of the government’s policy is out of sync with most of the population

    L’etat, c’est moi, indeed

  12. 12
    chris says:

    The moustache of war! We should probably get Dr. GORKA’S opinion too.

  13. 13
    TenguPhule says:

    @Anonymous At Work:

    Could you make magnetic limpet mines deliverable by drone or UAV? Would you want to?


  14. 14
    joel hanes says:

    What possible positive outcome could Iran expect from provoking a regional war?

    But IMHO the best reason to think that Iran had nothing to do with it is Trump’s insistence that it was definitely Iran. Every word out of the man’s mouth is a self-serving lie.

  15. 15
    TenguPhule says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷:

    I also believe for the above reasons that should the worst occur and we go to war with Iran, the “rally round the flag” effect won’t happen for Trump.

    The problem is that the rally effect is more about the people being put in harm’s way from said hostilities.

    Trump can hide behind the military and our fucking servile media will happily play along because ratings.

  16. 16
    Kelly says:

    De Gaulle to Dean Acheson when offered the US evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

    “No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.”

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: Yep. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these posted or released without that stuff. I’m sure someone could find another example, or more than one, if they went looking, but I think it is a bit weird.

  18. 18

    Stripping or modifying EXIF metadata is easy. Good image editing software will let you do it on the file you’re editing, and tools like jhead can do it in bulk. This kind of thing can be handy if, for example, you need to get a coherent timeline from multiple cameras whose clocks were not initially synchronized, but it can also be abused.

  19. 19
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    It’s sloppy. Maybe saner heads at the Navy are intentionally making these obvious goofs?

  20. 20
    Cacti says:

    Pompeo is a neocon. Best to assume anything from his mouth regarding Iran is a lie.

  21. 21
    trollhattan says:

    Italy all over Jamaica, 3-0 @ 47 minutes and a hat trick for Girelli. Given goal differential they should win their group, but their Brazil match next Tuesday could be epic since Brazil are now fighting for their lives after yesterday’s collapse. Poor Jamaica has yet to endure Australia, who are feeling their oats or whatever the hell they have for breakfast. Yeast paste?

  22. 22
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: Vegamite!

  23. 23
    kindness says:

    Trump & TrumpCo lies are biting themselves in the ass right now.

    That is what is saving America from a war with Iran. No one on the world stage believes them.

  24. 24
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    It won’t wash, especially if they’re going to use this amateur hour crap as pretext. Nobody will believe them. Support the troops? That’s warmed over Bush-era shit. Then again, the reaction to the NFL national anthem protests was bs, so who knows. I still don’t think even a significant plurality would materialize

  25. 25
    Mike in NC says:

    My ship was deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1984 during the so-called “tanker war” between Iran and Iraq. On at least one occasion we were sent by COMIDEASTFOR to investigate a distress signal from a civilian vessel. I was on the bridge as we approached a tanker at flank speed, and could only see a small section of the superstructure that appeared to have been damaged by a bomb or missile. The ship was able to proceed on its own to the UAE for formal investigation. Then we went right back to leisurely cruising in circles until be were relieved.

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:

    @Roger Moore:
    I understand–do it myself on occasion when called for–and the act of stripping it is what makes these suspect. If I’m the defense attorney I’m going after the prosecution hammer and tongs for evidence tampering.

  27. 27
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    And they only have themselves to blame, the stupid, arrogant fucks

  28. 28
    plato says:

    bbc: Gulf of Oman tanker ‘attacks’: What we know.

    No, the quotes were not mine.

    The thug’s regime has zero street cred with the rest of the entire world.

  29. 29
    rikyrah says:

    Simply don’t believe them, Silverman.

  30. 30
    Yutsano says:

    @trollhattan: I was watching a bit of Japan vs Scotland right before I left for work. The Japanese were quite…aggressive. It was fun to watch.

  31. 31
    sukabi says:

    Idle speculation here, but it’s more than likely that Bolton & Pompeo enlisted a team of Eric Prince’s mercenaries to “frame Iran’ so they could have the war they’ve been dreaming of for the last 20 years.

  32. 32
    Baud says:

    I distinctly saw yellow cakes in that video.

  33. 33
    plato says:

    I seriously don’t understand why Abe is putting his neck on line for this inept ingrate regime.

  34. 34
    trollhattan says:

    Something I’ve come to appreciate about soccer/futbol are the international announcers, who are reliably not Troy Aikman. A sample:

    Jamaica 0-3 Italy

    Oh this is horrendous. Jamaica striker Khadija Shaw goes for an overhead kick but almost decapitates Italy skipper Sara Gama.

    Shaw receives a yellow card and Gama needs a chin replacement.

    4-0, yikes. And they’re still celebrating, so will need scolding.

  35. 35
    trollhattan says:

    Recorded that one for viewing tonight. Haven’t seen Japan yet and excited to get my first look. Silver in the last WWC. Scotland has been tons of fun to watch.

  36. 36
    Mandalay says:

    There’s a disturbing sleight of hand from Nic Robertson, CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor. Yesterday he wrote a completely one-eyed article for CNN titled “With Iran, sometimes the logical explanation is the correct one“, clearly blaming Iran for the attacks despite the weasel use of “sometimes” in that title.

    Robertson does not mention his article in his twitter feed, yet retweets this:

    What happened today in the Gulf of Oman is fairly clear. But why it happened and who did it is a lot less easy to explain, not least because it doesn’t appear to benefit any of the protagonists in the region.

    So CNN’s “International Diplomatic Editor” is deliberately sending mixed messages: on the one hand Iran clearly did it, yet on the other hand we really don’t know. So “diplomatic”!

    I’m sure it’s irrelevant that another Gulf War would be a license to print money for CNN, but I’d trust Robertson as far as I can throw Judith Miller.

  37. 37
    sukabi says:

    @Adam L Silverman: with all the talk of “deep fakes” I’m surprised it isn’t in full color with the Ayatollah in the background holding a sign that says “Death to America”.

  38. 38

    I’d be less worried about stripping than about modification. I know there is firmware for some professional cameras (i.e. the kind news [ETA: and forensic] photographers would use) that can crytographically sign a photograph to show it wasn’t tampered with, and I assume it includes the metadata. I would want something like that (or a sworn declaration that the photograph hadn’t been tampered with) before accepting a photograph as evidence.

  39. 39
    TenguPhule says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷:

    Support the troops? That’s warmed over Bush-era shit.

    Unfortunately it is tenacious warmed over shit. Once Americans start dying, the initial lies that killed them tend to sink into the background as the mindset becomes “they killed our people, we must strike back”.

  40. 40
    TenguPhule says:

    @Roger Moore:

    or a sworn declaration that the photograph hadn’t been tampered with)

    I wouldn’t trust a blood oath sworn on their immortal soul.

  41. 41
    Baud says:


    Joining Biden and Sanders on the second night will be Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.), author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson and technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

    The group debating on the first night will include Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), former Obama Cabinet member Julián Castro, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former congressman John Delaney (Md.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), former congressman Beto O’Rourke, Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).

  42. 42
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    Probably partly because they’re kindred spirits (he’s a neo-fascist who denies Japan’s actions in China during WW2, such as the use of “comfort women”) and partly because Japan currently enjoy’s protection under the US nuclear umbrella

  43. 43
    TenguPhule says:


    I seriously don’t understand why Abe is putting his neck on line for this inept ingrate regime.

    Japan is nervous about tariffs and China’s aggressiveness in the Pacific.Also, it gets them street cred with Iran.

  44. 44
    JAF Rusty Shackleford says:

    It’s the Saudis or their proxies.

  45. 45
    TenguPhule says:

    @Baud: We’re sorry about Tulsi.

  46. 46
    Baud says:


    You should be.

  47. 47
    Ruckus says:

    @joel hanes:

    Every word out of the man’s mouth is a self-serving lie.

    And even if he was capable of not lying while breathing, he doesn’t seem to have any desire to. It’s like his entire life has been a lie. I think I see the issue here. It has been.

  48. 48
    Gravenstone says:

    Republicans seem to be all about the Shroedingeresque characterization of their enemies. Simultaneously feckless and stupid, as well as masterful and nigh omnipotent.

    As for the alleged Iranian involvement, my first thought on seeing that picture was an EOD operation to further safeguard the vessel. Nice to know I wasn’t alone in that evaluation.

  49. 49
    Gravenstone says:

    @TenguPhule: him doing so would solve all manner of problems for the world.

  50. 50
    TenguPhule says:


    You should be.

    In our defense, her opponent in the first Representative race was actually worse. I kid you not.

    This time around we have an actual Democrat running against her.

  51. 51
    plato says:

    Happy birthday to President Trump, who is a fucking piece of shit.— God (@TheTweetOfGod) June 14, 2019

  52. 52
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Porn ‘Stache Bolton wants a war with Iran so fuckin’ bad he can taste it.

    Too bad Iran’s terrain is utterly shitty for mobile warfare and great for defenders setting up ambushes.

  53. 53
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    God, fuck Tim Ryan. He’s my congressman and I don’t understand what he hopes to achieve with run. He’s never going to be anything other than a backbenching mediocrity. He’s only good for a vote in the House

  54. 54
    Gravenstone says:

    @Anonymous At Work: I would think a drone powerful enough to deliver a usable amount of explosives, if intended to actually damage or disable the vessel would have to be quite large.

  55. 55
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Roger Moore: Agreed. The US government has demonstrated, time and time again since 2003, that they are not to be trusted on word alone when it comes to any activity in the Middle East.

  56. 56
    trollhattan says:

    It’s the bastard’s birthday? Well, that murders Flag Day for the rest of time, doesn’t it?

  57. 57
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @JAF Rusty Shackleford: We invaded the wrong country in 2003.

  58. 58
    chris says:

    @Gravenstone: Well, remember how the tyrant Obama was so weak. I never could figure that one out.

  59. 59
    david says:

    Wag that dog, baby. The interview with Steph previewed Wednesday evening, and “Voila!”, this purported attack happens just hours later.

    Total coincidence, absolutely!

  60. 60
    Ruckus says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    It’s very weird. We can film legible license plates from space, we can’t film an oil tanker? Was that taken by camera bought at a drugstore in 1980? And as others, including you have said, you don’t try to sink a ship by attaching a mine 6-8 feet above the water line.
    Someone is attempting a bit of bullshitting, most likely to get their war on. It might not be us, others in the area are capable, but damn if this isn’t about as amateur as possible.

  61. 61
    Brachiator says:

    Here is the problem with running the kind of govt the US has recently:

    When you ask people to *believe* you, or give your “assessments” the benefit of the doubt, there is no reason that they should.

    The other, dangerous thing, is that Trump’s supporters think he is magic and the GOP will not oppose him on anything.

    Trump criticize Iraq and implied that he would not start a war. I still think he is a coward. And Americans seemed to indicate that they were tired of military adventures. But the neoconservatives love war. And Trump’s base love to play tough.

    And the problem is that some people don’t care what the intelligence services say. They only trust in Trump. Reasonable skeptics are just ignored.

  62. 62
    jonas says:

    I’m not a naval demolitions expert, but the “mine” the purported Iranian ship appears to be removing is above the water line. AFAIK, the limpet mines alleged to have been used are underwater and attached to the underside of the ship by specially-trained divers. Wouldn’t a tanker crew have kinda noticed someone placing a large explosive device on the hull of their ship in broad daylight? A lot of this just doesn’t add up.

  63. 63
    Ruckus says:

    Best bday greeting ever. God knows his shit.

  64. 64
    Ruff the Dog says:

    Of course it was Bolton. Strapped on a pair of tusks and passed for a marine mammal browsing for oysters in the ocean floor.

  65. 65
    ThresherK says:

    @trollhattan: Final, 5-0 for the Azzuri.

    Jamaica will not advance, but the merit of getting to the final is amazing. Good story about it in the ESPN mag. The Reggae Girlz really have had little official support in the logistical level.

  66. 66
    plato says:

    Wonder where puppeteer putin, purported pal of Persians, stands on this fiasco of ginning up yet another illegal war in ME.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: Unfortunately the American that Fox Sports has doing play by play sounds just enough like Joe Buck that I want to turn the volume off. The English guy they’ve been using is much better.

  68. 68
    plato says:

    @trollhattan: Yup and yup. Proof that there is actually no god.

  69. 69
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: I’m hoping it replays tonight as I missed it.

  70. 70
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @sukabi: If it was a deep fake it would be more likely to be Elizabeth Warren holding that sign.

  71. 71
    thewesson says:

    Seems like the mine is placed where someone standing on a dock would stick a mine (well above the waterline, but not very high up.)

  72. 72
    plato says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Or uncle joe.

  73. 73
    jonas says:

    @Brachiator: My view is that the opposite is more likely true. I don’t think Trump, or his base, is interested in a war with Iran. His MO is to talk shit, threaten fire and brimstone, and then “make a deal” and be hailed as a diplomacy genius. He thinks this is what he did with North Korea and, more recently, Mexico. You’re right that the old-guard foreign policy types, insofar and they’re still out there in the ranks of the military and IC these days (+ Bolton in the WH), are more likely to want to take a tough stance against Iran and are the ones pushing this dubious “intelligence” now, but I think Trump senses that his base is not in the mood for an overseas adventure, least of all in the ME. They want walls built, migrants detained, hippies punched, and the old steel mill back up and running, all to the tune of “Those Were the Days.” If there’s a shooting war in the Gulf, gas prices will double, there will be a major recession, and Trump can kiss his reelection goodbye. And that’s before the impeachment begins.

  74. 74
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

  75. 75
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: And the US Army’s birthday.

  76. 76
    TenguPhule says:

    Trump still owes D.C. $7 million in inauguration costs as he plans Fourth of July celebration

    All US cities and counties where Trump goes to should not provide anything at all. Let the Secret Service do all the work. Its what they’re paid for.

    And if Trump’s security suffers for it, all the better.

    He’s stealing from the budget of every place he visits.

  77. 77
    Ruckus says:

    Not disagreeing with you other than you think that drumpf can make that train of logic run in his head?

  78. 78
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ruckus: That’s the thing that immediately got my antenna up. Because of the tensions in the region and the need to keep the Gulf of Oman, the Straits of Hormuz, and the Persian Gulf open to shipping, we have 24/7 eyes on everything there. So we have bad video that is from some US Navy asset on site of the Iranians removing an UXO as part of rescue operations, but we don’t have anything of the explosives being placed?

  79. 79
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jonas: That’s the other thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why would you place a mine above the water line.

  80. 80

  81. 81
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Obligatory!//

    Again, posted for sarcastic purposes only!!!!

  82. 82
    Tom Levenson says:

    My son and four classmates are watching a documentary about the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and its sequelae as I type this. First time tragedy. Second time, tragic farce.

  83. 83
    trollhattan says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: @Adam L Silverman:
    Of all the possible Bushies for Fat Bastard to go and resurrect from history’s crypt, Bolton may be the most dangerous so of course he did.

  84. 84
    joel hanes says:

    Why would you place a mine above the water line.

    Because your objective is not to sink or incapacitate the ship, nor to damage it badly enough that the liquid cargo is spilled, nor to kill anyone on board, but only to stage a highly-visible “attack” for propaganda purposes. And for this you do not use an actual naval mine, which are designed to do all those things, but some other kind of explosive device.

  85. 85
    joel hanes says:

    we have bad video that [allegedly] is from some US Navy asset on site of the [alleged] Iranians

    The men who dumped the tea in Boston Harbor were costumed as Native Americans.
    They were not native Americans.

  86. 86
    PeakVT says:

    I don’t see how war with a more powerful country would benefit Iran. Therefore, it’s a false flag by

    1) Saudi Arabia. Has a leader who is a proven violent, war-mongering idiot.
    2) Saudi Arabia plus Israel. Above plus a leader who is desperately, frantically clinging to power to avoid jail.
    3) Russia. A US war with Iran would go a long way to splitting NATO, as well as jacking up oil prices. This is less likely as Russia hasn’t proven it can pull off such an operation so far from home, as well as having a high risk of blowback if the team is caught.
    4) The US. God help us all if Bolton and/or Pompeo are freelancing to this degree and can find a team willing to undertake it within the US government.

  87. 87
    sukabi says:

    @Adam L Silverman: considering the competence and “intelligence” on display, you’re probably right…or Hillary, they love to hate on Hillary.

  88. 88
    Ruckus says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    I’m pretty sure we could have done a better job when I was in the navy, in 70-73. And I thought then that a lot of what I saw was pure bullshit. And yes I understood my duties and job. But a lot of officers I met were not about how well the ship and crew worked but how well their bullshit was admired. And yes I did see some good officers, actual leaders who understood that military life is about risk management in situations where risk is only two levels, bad and far worse. Or boring as possible, with almost nothing in between.

  89. 89
    Kent says:


    I’m not a naval demolitions expert, but the “mine” the purported Iranian ship appears to be removing is above the water line. AFAIK, the limpet mines alleged to have been used are underwater and attached to the underside of the ship by specially-trained divers. Wouldn’t a tanker crew have kinda noticed someone placing a large explosive device on the hull of their ship in broad daylight? A lot of this just doesn’t add up.

    I’m not a Navy person but I spent a lot of time on ships at sea, mostly on big commercial fishing trawlers in Alaska.

    You don’t generally look at the side of your ship when underway. It wouldn’t be visible from the wheelhouse and no one is actually inspecting their ship’s sides on any kind of regular basis except perhaps in port. So it is quite conceivable this sort of thing would not be noticed.

    What is not conceivable is that any kind of patrol boat or attack boat could have snuck up and placed it there in the middle of the night or something. That would show up on radar and all these big ships have very sophisticated computerized radar screens that have automatic collision alert alarms built in. So even a small boat approaching at sea would be noticed on radar and likely set off alarms. There might be special types of stealthy inflatable rubber boats that are designed to not show up on radar. But they would be small. Certainly not the type of boat shown in the video.

    And I agree with Adam. Why place it that high above the water line? You want to sink a ship you blow a hole below the water line not above. That’s why you use torpedos. And why they used torpedo bombers to attack ships during WW2.

  90. 90
    Kent says:

    So question for Adam or others who might be in the know.

    Who does one believe when it comes to these sorts of military issues? Is there any independent international military version of Snopes or something that actually looks at this sort of thing and calls BS? Or are we just left to decide for ourselves who to trust?

  91. 91
    Aleta says:

    @Ruckus: If someone interviewed him directly about his lying, he’d insist it was OK.

    Q: Should a President lie to the American people?

    A: I think I’d do it. They call it oppo lies — good for you, bad for your opponent. You go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo lies.

  92. 92
    Aleta says:

    @Kent: Because they didn’t want to sink the ship. (And I agree maybe there was no mine.)

    eta like joel said at #84

  93. 93
    Lit3Bolt says:


    These all sound the most likely to my mind. Bonesaw and Bibi have demonstrated they care fuck-all about international order.

    I think it’s less likely to be Trump administration because that mission would leak so fast.

  94. 94
    Bill Arnold says:


    And I agree with Adam. Why place it that high above the water line?

    Haven’t looked at the mil-speculation sites yet (will soon!); are people generally talking about charges (magnetic, perhaps shaped) delivered by drone, as speculated above? (With the drone doing a nose-dive into the water after delivery, since there is no need to risk detection on a return flight.)
    Delivery by boat seems risky (radar, observation) and placement so far above the water line would (is this true?) involve humans who might get get caught and who want to make a return trip.

    If small charges and commercial drones were used, then I wouldn’t discount to zero the possibility of non-state actors or rogue state actors, perhaps using hired contractors. (sukabi @ 31 and a few others here.) The cost could be pretty low. The precedent would be appallingly shitty.

    So many entities with strong motives. If it’s been a low budget operation using drones, then the risks of being caught could be acceptably low, if the control signals were not generally detectable by the forces in the region. (e.g. encrypted unjammed civilian comms traffic) That would expand the pool to amoral non-state actors.

  95. 95
    Ruckus says:

    True he’d defend his lying. But he’d say he didn’t lie. He doesn’t lie. Or he’d say he’s the biggest, bestest lier ever.
    Of course people lie. Therefore of course politicians lie. But like everything else, there is lying, and there is LYING. drumpf doesn’t know the difference. He lies because he just opens his mouth and whatever comes out is a lie, not because he’s trying to protect someone, something, he lies because that’s the only way he knows how to form words into any semblance of a sentence. The old line is he wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and hit him in the head. If the truth ever fell out of his mouth, it would be the first time. I could go on.

  96. 96
    J R in WV says:


    when I was in the navy, in 70-73. And I thought then that a lot of what I saw was pure bullshit.

    I too was in the Navy from 70-73, and saw my share of Bullshit.

    If we actually have film of an Iranian demo expert removing an unknown explosive device from the hull of a tanker, I will say he has more courage than Mr Trump ever dreamed of. Nerves of steel! Balls of chrome!

    I’m thinking this was either a Saudi or Saudi/Israeli operation, though it is barely possible it was the Emirates working for the Saudis. I hope it wasn’t Prince working for Bolton, but that too is barely possible.

    It wasn’t the Iranians, who would not attack a Japanese tanker with Abe in Tehran meeting with Iranian leadership. That’s just too stupid to be real…

  97. 97
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Someone is not going to actually be nominated to be SecDef!

  98. 98
    Adam L Silverman says:

    And here’s CENTCOM’s statement from yesterday. Notice the final sentence (emphasis mine):

    U.S. Central Command Statement on June 13 Limpet Mine Attack in the Gulf of Oman

    June 13, 2019 —
    U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7a.m. local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

    Link to Images

    Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls. USS Bainbridge was approximately 40 nautical miles away from the M/T Altair at the time of the attack, and immediately began closing the distance.

    At 8:09 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair.

    At 9:12 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observes the FAC/FIAC pull a raft from the M/T Altair from the water.

    At 9:26 a.m. local time the Iranians requested that the motor vessel Hyundai Dubai, which had rescued the sailors from the M/T Altair, to turn the crew over to the Iranian FIACs. The motor vessel Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the crew of the M/T Altair to the Iranian FIACs.

    At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.

    While the Hendijan patrol boat appeared to attempt to get to the tug Coastal Ace before USS Bainbridge, the mariners were rescued by USS Bainbridge at the request of the master of the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The rescued sailors are currently aboard USS Bainbridge.

    At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

    Link to Video

    The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests. Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.

    The U.S. and the international community, stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation.

    The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.

    – attributable to Capt. Bill Urban, Lead Spokesman for U.S. Central Command

  99. 99
    Anonymous At Work says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Optics!

  100. 100
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Kent: There really isn’t. What you’re looking for here is if NATO or Britain, Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan come out and confirm the administration’s views or at best goes quiet and at worse publicly contradicts the administration. That both the official CENTCOM statement I posted in comment 98 and the Acting SecDef’s in comment 97 are not in line with what the President and the Secretary of State have said is, I think, very telling.

  101. 101
    PeakVT says:

    @Bill Arnold: Good points. I missed the comment about US mercenaries. That’s more likely than a US government team for sure. Non-state actors (terrorists, corporations) could be involved, though both seem less likely than US instigation, just because there isn’t a history of it (that I am aware of).

  102. 102
    Peale says:

    @Kent: Maybe they don’t actually want to sink the ship. Just make a big “Boom with Smoke” to let people know they could sink ships if they wanted to.

  103. 103
    thewesson says:

    @Adam L Silverman: So from that CENTCOM statement an IRGC boat removing a mine from the tanker hull is exactly in line with their other rescue or attempted-rescue attempts. What’s more the mine removal is four or five hours after the attack, despite the fact that IRGC boats were on scene 1 or 2 hours after the attack.

  104. 104
    joel hanes says:


    Non-state actors

    can be used to provide plausible deniability to the state that uses them as a front.
    IIRC, the Reaganauts tried for a while to pretend that the Contras were not receiving funds and equipment from the US government.

  105. 105
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman: UK decided to shit the bed by backing Trump’s accusations against Iran.

    Apparently the Tories learned nothing from Tony’s love affair with Bush Jr.

  106. 106
    Peale says:

    @TenguPhule: The UK will always be our lapdog. Which is why they are about to find out that in a free trade deal, their beer and health insurance system will suck like ours do.

  107. 107
    TenguPhule says:


    their beer and health insurance system will suck like ours do.

    Lets be fair, their beer was already pretty awful.

  108. 108
    Aleta says:

    Who would want to make Japan and China, and Singapore and South Korea nervous about needing to use the Straight for their oil supply?

    Why put the focus on a boat removing a limpet mine from the side of a ship, when so much of the research direction on uses for unmanned underwater vehicles comes from the military? (As well as from oil companies and scientific mapping, etc.) Their use for mine countermeasures has been publicized; another use that’s mentioned is to put psychological pressure on an opponent by planting a string of mines beneath its shipping lane and then setting off a few warning detonations.

  109. 109
    bjacques says:

    I think it really was a mine but the guys who planted it set the timer wrong, so they had to retrieve it, because sanctions and mines don’t grow on trees. The noob of the crew had to climb up and peel it off, and then one of the guys behind him popped a paper bag.

  110. 110
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Adam L Silverman: That’s the ticket!

  111. 111
    debbie says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷:

    Even worse, the Coalition of the Willing won’t extend beyond his Cabinet.

    This “attack” reminds me of the outrage following reports of Iraqis tossing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators so they could be used for Iraqi babies.

  112. 112
    Aleta says:

    Correction @Aleta: “Their use for mine countermeasures has been publicized; another use”
    s.b. Their desirability for mcm has been publicized; another potential use that’s mentioned”

  113. 113
    joel hanes says:


    their beer was already pretty awful

    Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale would like a quiet word with you in the alley.

  114. 114
    debbie says:


    More like they hired James O’Keefe for his videographer acumen.

  115. 115
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @PeakVT: They don’t need a team from within the Government. Whatever Blackwater is calling itself this week (I looked it up: Academi. This is an old Amway trick of renaming itself to avoid its shady reputation as a full scale pyramid scheme to enrich the vile parasite DeVos family), led by Erik Prince fuckstick, brother of Betsy DeVos (my, what a coincidence!), will be happy to facilitate them.

  116. 116
    Bill Arnold says:


    UK decided to shit the bed by backing Trump’s accusations against Iran.

    Take notes on who among our allies and in the press (international as well, and by-lines) are publishing the DJT administration’s lies uncritically.
    They are probably compromised.
    Investors are suspicious.
    Japanese Tanker Owner Denies Ship Hit By Mine, Says Crew Saw “Flying Objects” Before Attack (Tyler Durden (pseudonym), 06/14/2019)

  117. 117
    chris says:

    @OpWolverines has good stuff on the video. It’s his/her job.

    (FYWP won’t let me post links today.)

  118. 118
    Another Scott says:


    Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, called the latest US accusations “ridiculous, but also very worrying and dangerous”, according to the IRNA state news agency.

    UN warns against ‘Gulf confrontation’ after tankers damaged (2:17)
    Blaming Iran for the incidents was “the simplest and the most convenient way” for US officials, he said, adding: “We are responsible for ensuring the security of the Strait and we have rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time.”

    The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most important sea lanes, as one-third of all oil traded by sea, which accounts for a fifth of all oil traded worldwide, passes through the waterway.

    Justin Bronk, a combat technology specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, said the patrol boat shown in the US video was known to be the kind used by the IRGC.

    However, “if the attack was the Iranians, this would be a very, very brazen thing to do, to go up and retrieve an unexploded mine [while] under scrutiny from the US destroyer that was nearby,” he said.

    “On the other hand, you could argue that they were keen to pick up an unexploded mine to avoid it linking back to them. Although, realistically, if this was the Iranians, there will be enough evidence to link back to them even without the unexploded mine.”


    Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said the latest US moves were aimed at forcing Iran to negotiate a new deal that would also address its ballistic missiles programme as well as support for armed groups in the region.

    “The general feeling here is that Thursday’s incidents are not something the Iranians would do. It is not in their best interests. There is actually no evidence and this grainy footage from the US is not substantial enough – it’s not clear where this footage came from and who is visible in it,” she said.

    Meanwhile, Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, said the latest events highlighted any disruptions in the strait would also affect the economies of Iran’s regional foes, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

    “Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where these two tankers were coming from, have supported Trump’s maximum pressure campaign [against Iran] and some could see how it could make sense for Iran to gain from situations like this, whereby the pro-Trump countries in the Gulf face new problems as blowback for supporting the White House,” he said from Washington, DC.

    It’s too early to trust either story yet, I think. Especially since Donnie’s people always lie if they think there’s any benefit from it. Grrr….


  119. 119
    Brachiator says:


    My view is that the opposite is more likely true. I don’t think Trump, or his base, is interested in a war with Iran. His MO is to talk shit, threaten fire and brimstone, and then “make a deal” and be hailed as a diplomacy genius.

    I see your point, but the only people who think that Trump is a foreign policy genius are the people who run, and watch, Fox News. I can’t see the Iranians coming to the negotiating table behind this stuff, but if they did, then Trump might actually come out smelling like a rose.

    But even though I think that Trump is a coward, misinterpreting what happened in the Gulf could ignite a conflict that no one wants.

    He thinks this is what he did with North Korea and, more recently, Mexico.

    The North Korean deal has gone sour and the Mexico “deal” may be overblown. Trump doesn’t have too many tricks up his sleeve. And he seems incapable of learning or adapting. This is not good for anyone.

  120. 120
    TenguPhule says:

    Employees from two Department of Agriculture research agencies stood and turned their backs to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at an all-hands meeting Thursday to silently protest a decision to relocate the agencies halfway across the country.

    Perdue announced earlier Thursday morning that the Economic Research Service, which provides research and statistical analysis for lawmakers, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which allocates federal research funding, will be relocated to Kansas City from Washington, DC, the final announcement in a process that began last year.
    The department says the move will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, but many employees view the change as politically driven and a way to disrupt climate research and other work with which their bosses disagree. Both agencies recently voted overwhelmingly to unionize to push back against the move.

    Also, this apparently slipped through because there were so many other fucked up Trump scandals this week.

  121. 121
    Lynno says:

    That video. We get better video from Mars. I refuse to believe that our military would produce and give the president crap like that. It looks like the work of some WH intern. Trump is going to get us all killed.

  122. 122
    Haroldo says:

    With Donnie and Mikey and Johnny, it’s really the Gulf of Onan.

  123. 123
    Martin says:


    And I agree with Adam. Why place it that high above the water line? You want to sink a ship you blow a hole below the water line not above. That’s why you use torpedos. And why they used torpedo bombers to attack ships during WW2.

    Why would anyone even approach the problem this way? I have undergraduate students that have built autonomous underwater drones with operational ranges of several miles. It’s trivial for any nation state to build one of these with a payload and detonate it on the underside of a ship. It’d cost thousands of dollars, at most, to harm a ship of this size and fail to sink it. Make it buoyant only with a ballast tank, attach the charge using a magnet, flood your tank, sink to the bottom and detonate. Nobody is going to find that drone on the bottom. No sailors to be filmed or captured. And if the mission fails, who cares – just try it again.

    And what’s the point of an attack that doesn’t sink the ship except to serve as a warning – but Iran isn’t asserting anything. What are they warning people of?

    This makes zero sense. If I owned one of these tankers or one of their insurers, I’d be paying one of the satellite video companies for constant coverage any time I approached this region. I sure as fuck wouldn’t be relying on the US to be an honest broker over this.

  124. 124
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: No, the UK hedged. They said they needed to see the evidence, but if it is as Secretary Pompeo has asserted then they would, of course, stand with their American ally.

    You do realize the rest of us can read, right?

  125. 125
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Academi has nothing to do with Prince. It is part of a conglomeration of several major defense contractors and several smaller, niche, Native American, and/or Native Alaskan owned defense companies.

    Prince’s current company, Frontier Services, is owned by a wealth fund that is itself owned by the People’s Republic of China. Basically he is bankrolled and owned by Xi. Prior to that his company was being bankrolled by Muhammad bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of the UAE, on whose behalf he was working.

  126. 126
    japa21 says:

    Nobody is commenting on Pompeo’s apparent statement about some connection between al Qaeda and Iran, which might justify using the AUMF to attack Iran. This is so totally out there but unfortunately for people with poor memories or no knowledge of intra Islam disputes, would make sense.

    Iran hates al Qaeda. After 9/11 they offered assistance to the US in getting OBL, which Bush, in his idiocy, rejected.

    We have so many stupid people in this country.

  127. 127
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @japa21: I put it in the original post.

  128. 128
    japa21 says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I know you put it in the post, which is why I bring it up. It’s just that it is so ludicrous to even imagine there is a connection between the two.

    ETA: I know everybody says this, and, in fact, I am probably saying it for the umpteenth time, but thanks for all the expertise you bring to this top 10,000 political blog.

  129. 129
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman: The only hedging they did was saying it was “almost” certainly Iran’s fault.

    Read more here.

  130. 130
    LongHairedWeirdo says:

    Sudden thought:
    If we have good, sound, legitimate intelligence that Iran was responsible, why did we need to get headlines first?
    Seriously: if we were sure, wouldn’t we be carefully tying together all loose threads, making sure we had a sound foundation, and saying “we expect to announce investigation results”?

    So the real question is, is the wag the dog – get some fresh headlines going – or is this “let’s murder more babies! We only care about them if they’re in utero, in American women, who are in abortion clinics, so it’s okay to start wars!”

    Side note: A member of the military, following lawful orders, in a conscientious manner, following standard rules of engagement, who causes the death of an infant, is not murdering a baby. The politician who sent that person is the baby killer, and if they lied to get into that war, it’s quite fair to call them “a murderer”. Technically, it might only be manslaughter – couldn’t you just *imagine* wingers trying to trumpet that distinction?

    (Seriously, couldn’t you? “HE SAID MURDER! But it’s *CLEAR* that murder would *not* apply!”)

  131. 131
    The Lodger says:

    @Martin: I don’t think the attackers were trying to destroy the ships. Look at the effect: some flames and an impressive amount of smoke that didn’t ruin the picture.
    No one was killed, no significant amount of liquid cargo was spilled from either vessel. As acts of sabotage go, this one was pretty inept. But it’s the sort of result you’d be overjoyed with if you were making a movie. It’s hard to stage an effect like that without doing actual damage. If I was directing this, I’d be tempted to give the techs a bonus.

  132. 132
    Procopius says:

    It’s great to see some critical thinking in action.

  133. 133
    Aleta says:

    Slate yesterday morning:

    the Financial Times reports “Speaking shortly after the attack on Thursday, [the Japanese shipping company] said the explosions were on the port side of the Kokuka Courageous. However, the US images showed damage and a suspected limpet mine on the starboard side of the vessel.”

    Lindsay Beyerstein @beyerstein

    They got the wrong side of the fucking boat!


Doesn’t the military have continuity people for their movies?

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