Details on War in the Gulf

| Wed Jan. 17, 2007 12:04 PM PST

Bush hopes his new strategy will jump start his losing war. But as time goes by, we sink further into the quagmire. The President's speech didn't do the trick. Opposition to the war builds. Members of both parties in Congress are openly opposed to the war. John Murtha, who sits as chair of the House appropriations subcommittee on defense spending that provides crucial financing for the war, openly threatens to defund the war. Great Britain, our principal ally, is pulling out. The new cumbersome counterinsurgency command looks like an invitation to kill American troops.

On top of all this Bush can't leave Iran alone, constantly provoking Tehran from just across the border. The latest evidence of this comes from an interview with a former commander of Russia's Black Sea fleet. Admiral Eduard Baltin told the Interfax news agency, "The presence of U.S. nuclear submarines in the Persian Gulf region means that the Pentagon has not abandoned plans for surprise strikes against nuclear targets in Iran. With this aim a group of multi-purpose submarines ready to accomplish the task is located in the area.'"

He spoke following reports of a collision between an American sub and a Japanese tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. "Submarine commanders go up to the periscope depth and forget about navigation rules and safety measures," the admiral said.

According to Global Security, an independent Washington-based research group that follows military issues, the Iranian navy, battered after the war with Iraq, has been struggling to reorganize and acquire a variety of ships and aircraft. Bejing has supplied patrol boats and silkworm missiles.

"In July 2002 a conventional-arms sale triggered sanctions on several Chinese companies," reports Global Security. Beijing had transfered high-speed catamaran missile patrol boats to Iran. The C-14 patrol boats are outfitted with anti-ship cruise missiles. Short-range anti-ship missiles for the patrol boats also were sold from China to Iran in January 2002. The catamaran and anti-ship missile sales were first disclosed by The Washington Times in May 2002, shortly after the first of the new C-14 patrol boats was observed by U.S. military intelligence at an Iranian port. The high-speed gunboat can carry up to eight C-701 anti-ship cruise missiles, and usually has one gun. There have also been reports of Iran possesing another type of anti-ship system. Up to 16 Sunburst anti-ship missile systems were traded in the early 1990's from the Ukraine.

The Iranians are by no means a push over, and a guerrilla naval war in the Gulf could have unforeseen results.

The smaller boats might do damage to American ships but not enough to have much effect, according to Navy experts. The Iranian subs, for instance, are all Russian imports, and their ins-and-outs are well known to the U.S. Navy. We have two carrier battlegroups in the Gulf area. Each one consists of a carrier, two to three frigates, a cruiser, supply ship and two to three subs.

Nonetheless guerrilla war at sea could become an inferno. One explosive laden skiff rammed into a loaded LNG tanker could cause an inferno of untold proportions. And even low-level small boat attacks on outgoing Gulf shipping could impair western oil supplies, our own included.

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