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Terrorism & Security

New evidence sparks uncertainty over US-Iran naval incident in Hormuz

Iranian video shows apparently routine activity by Iranian patrol boats, while Pentagon officials say radio threat may not have been from Iranian forces.

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The Monitor notes that the Strait of Hormuz is a critical waterway for oil traffic, since as much as 40 percent of the world's oil exports travel through it.

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The Los Angeles Times reports that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other US officials are still concerned by the incident.

"I think that what concerned us was, first, the fact that there were five of these boats, and second, that they came as close as they did to our ships and behaved in what appeared to be a pretty aggressive manner," [Mr. Gates] said. "So I think it's all of those things that raise concerns."
The Bush administration lodged a formal diplomatic protest Thursday in a note given to Swiss diplomats in Tehran, the Iranian capital. The Bush administration relies on the Swiss to help oversee Washington's interests in Iran in the absence of formal relations between the Islamic Republic and the U.S.

But the Pentagon has conceded that the threatening voice in the US video may not have come from the patrol boats, writes The Washington Post. The Post adds that such a concession appears to contradict the implications of earlier Pentagon statements about the video.

Pentagon officials insist that they never claimed Iran made the threat. "No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats. But when they hear it simultaneously to the behavior of those boats, it only adds to the tension," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. "If this verbal threat emanated from something or someone unrelated to the five boats, it would not lessen the threat from those boats." ...
"When you get a bridge-to-bridge call, you have no way of knowing where it came from," Thorp said. "Nobody ever, with any certainty, knew it was from them. But it did escalate it up a notch as it was happening at the same time" that the patrol boats, manned by Revolutionary Guards, engaged in menacing behavior, [Rear Adm. Frank Thorp IV, a spokesman for the Navy,] said.

The Post notes that Farsi speakers and Iranians who listened to the verbal threat said the speaker's accent did not sound Iranian.

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