Iranian Navy Plans Wargames for Saturday: Will the Filipino Monkey Show Up?

In January of 2008, at a time very similar to now (just under a year out from Presidential elections and with anti-Iran propaganda at a fever pitch in the US media), the Bush administration embarrassed itself mightily in its response to an encounter in the Persian Gulf. As US warships were being approached by five small Iranian craft, a voice came over the airwaves stating “I am coming to you”. A bit later it added “You will explode after a few minutes”. The US quickly claimed this was a threat from the Iranian vessels, but after cooler heads prevailed (and after Iran supplied additional video and audio from the encounter), it was realized that the voice did not match those of the Iranians in the encounter and that the behavior matched that of the legendary radio prankster, the Filipino Monkey.

We learn today from Fars News that Iran plans very large naval wargame exercises on Saturday, in both the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean:

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said at a press conference on Thursday that the naval maneuvers dubbed Velayat 90 will start on Saturday and will cover an area stretching from the east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden.

According to Sayyari, this is the first time that Iran’s Navy carries out naval drills in such a vast area.

He added the exercises will manifest Iran’s military prowess and defense capabilities in the international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries, and test the newest military equipment among other objectives of the drills.

It would have been nice if we had seen all of the objectives in the drills rather than a partial list, but it is quite interesting to see the list of weapons systems and equipment that will be involved:

Rear Admiral Sayyari said that the newest missile systems and torpedoes will be employed in the maneuvers, adding that the most recent tactics used in subsurface battles will also be demonstrated in the maneuvers.

He also said that Iranian destroyers, missile-launching vessels, logistic vessels, drones and coastal missiles will also be tested.

With all those torpedoes, missiles and drones running around, what could possibly go wrong? Given the level of posturing by both the US and Iran lately over nuclear technology, assassination plots, spies and drones, these naval wargames seem particularly ripe for generating the type of “misunderstanding” that can quickly escalate to outright hostilities. Throw in the wildcard of spurious, but well-timed, radio provocation, and the Filipino Monkey could move from comedy to tragedy in the blink of an eye.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
15 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    OT – As reported by the Lawfare blog, the NYT, and its reporters Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, have filed suit under FOIA “for access to the OLC memo authorizing the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Aulaqi.”

    A copy of the filing is here (13 page PDF).

  2. bmaz says:

    @MadDog: Yep, Charlie filed that right about the same time Tuesday morning when I posted the Drone Kill/Capture post that had Awlaki central in the equation. I do not think they will get anything, but will be interesting to see the response to the one guy who we all know has seen at least one of the Awlaki memos.

  3. MadDog says:

    @bmaz: I will await with interest to see what arguments the DOJ uses to resist the NYT’s filing.

    States Secret Privilege? Right at the top of my list. Attorney-Client Privilege? Another favorite. Foreign Policy Privilege (as in Foreign Policy is the exclusive domain of the Executive branch)? Possible, but only if the others above fail.

    Regardless of which DOJ argument(s), even if ruled against, I would expect the DOJ to run the stall game all the way to SCOTUS.

    If a ruling turns out against the NYT, I’m curious whether they will appeal.

  4. MadDog says:

    More OT – For those interested in the US’s investigation into the airstrikes on the Pakistani border posts that I commented on earlier this morning, while I’ve not (yet) been able to locate a copy of the investigation report, the DOD has a transcript of a news briefing on the investigation given today by Brig. Gen. Clark, the officer in charge of the investigation.

    I found the briefing interesting and others here may also:

    DOD News Briefing with Brig. Gen. Clark via Teleconference from Hurlburt Field, Fla.

  5. Jim White says:

    There’s more on Mehr this morning, with a hint that the Strait of Hormuz could be closed as part of the wargames:

    Asked if the Navy has the capability to close the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategically important chokepoints which accounts for about 30% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments, Sayyari said that the strait is under the control of the Navy.

    The Navy commander said the Navy and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps have the capability to shut the Strait of Hormuz, but the decision on the issue rests with “our superiors.”

    He added, “No decision has been made in this regard yet.”

    MP Parviz Sorouri said on December 13 that Iran plans to hold a war game in the near future to practice its ability to close the strait.

    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast stated on December 14 that Iran’s threat of closing the Strait of Hormuz is a response to the United States’ threats against the Islamic Republic.

    I don’t like where this appears to be headed.

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