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Standoff With Iranian Gunboats: Powderkeg In The Gulf

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posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 08:26 PM
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Just another day at work, or a powderkeg that could ignite a war anytime?

Rewritten from original article By Brendan Nicholson, theage.com.au
March 13, 2006

There you are, commanding an Australian frigate and helping to guard 1 of 2 vital Iraqi oil rigs in the Persian Gulf, when all of a sudden six Iranian gunboats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy approach the dangerous, invisible and disputed international boundary that lies near Iraq's Khawr Abd Allah oil terminal.

You know that these small, fast Iranian vessels are armed with machine-guns, often carry rocket launchers, and that the platforms are considered key targets of Iraqi insurgents. You also know that just days ago, an Iranian patrol boat actually fired on a dhow moving through the area. The area has had steady commercial traffic for thousands of years and the warship's radar screens are constantly lit up with contacts that include scores of dhows, tankers, rusty freigh-ters and patrolling warships.

You realize that if the Iranian boats enter Iraqi waters and approach the oil platforms in such large numbers, you may have to open fire.

So what do you do?

When this really happened on Saturday, the HMAS Parramatta's captain, Commander Jonathan Mead, ordered his crew to sweep at high speed through the area between the border and the exclusion zone around the nearer of the two platforms.

"It was a tense 30 minutes but we were able to de-escalate it," Commander Mead said. The Iranians eventually turned and headed for home.

Two days earlier an Iranian vessel crossed the boundary and headed towards the exclusion zone, at which point the Parramatta approached the speedboat and Commander Mead had a conversation with one of the Iranian guardsmen who spoke some English.

The conversation was polite but Commander Mead made it clear that the frigate was there to guard the exclusion zone. "I called him 'Sir'; he called me 'Captain'. It was very courteous."

"They see coalition warship No. 154 and know we mean them no harm," Commander Mead said.

On February 15 a boarding party from the Parramatta searched a freighter near the oil platforms and found 6.24 kilograms of refined ammonium nitrate hidden in a pantry. The chemical, made in a Ukrainian factory, is frequently a key ingredient of bombs made by insurgents in Iraq.
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I cannot imagine working in such a tense situation everyday, and I wonder how many times potenitally very serious incidents like this are avoided in the Persian Gulf theater and other places quite frequently.

Will it take just one incident like this that turns sour to ignite a full scale war in the Gulf? I mean really! The tensions are running high enough over the nuclear issue with Iran that we don't need provocations like this to further fuel the fires. Do you think Iran could be deliberately provoking the coalition into firing to justify further Iranian action? What gives?

And what's this with Ukranian ammonium nitrate hidden in a pantry?



[edit on 12-3-2006 by TrueAmerican]




posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 10:31 PM
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They're in the process of upgrading these frigates with additional weapons systems.





posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 10:57 PM
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Cool James


That appears to be a picture of the very frigate mentioned in the story, #154?



posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 11:40 PM
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Originally posted by TrueAmerican
Cool James


That appears to be a picture of the very frigate mentioned in the story, #154?


Yes, that's her, she's based literally next door to me here on Sydney Harbour. The other Aussie frigates of the same class have been upgraded with anti-aircraft and anti-ship weapons systems and would therefore be more effective warships..



[edit on 12-3-2006 by JamesinOz]



posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 11:48 PM
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Originally posted by JamesinOz
The other Aussie frigates in the same class have been upgraded with anti-aircraft and anti-ship weapons systems and would therefore be more effective warships..


Hmm, interesting. I wonder if the Iranians know that too and therefore are not as threatened by #154?



posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 11:52 PM
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Originally posted by TrueAmerican

Originally posted by JamesinOz
The other Aussie frigates in the same class have been upgraded with anti-aircraft and anti-ship weapons systems and would therefore be more effective warships..


Hmm, interesting. I wonder if the Iranians know that too and therefore are not as threatened by #154?


TrueAmerican, I suspect they were testing the boundary defences in anticipation of a possible future action. Had they attacked the Aussie frigate I suspect the USN response would've been swift and decisive.



[edit on 12-3-2006 by JamesinOz]



posted on Mar, 13 2006 @ 12:05 AM
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Originally posted by JamesinOz
Had they attacked the Aussie frigate I suspect the USN response would've been swift and decisive.


I'm sure the Iranians know that, too.



posted on Mar, 13 2006 @ 11:30 AM
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Hmm, interesting. I wonder if the Iranians know that too and therefore are not as threatened by #154?


I think the ANZAC, with it's 5" gun, would easily be more than a match for a group of small gunboats. A single hit from that would be enough to blow a little patrol gunboat out of the water. The gunboats might be able to bang the frigate up a little with LMG fire, but that's it.



posted on Mar, 13 2006 @ 11:38 AM
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Originally posted by xmotex



Hmm, interesting. I wonder if the Iranians know that too and therefore are not as threatened by #154?


I think the ANZAC, with it's 5" gun, would easily be more than a match for a group of small gunboats. A single hit from that would be enough to blow a little patrol gunboat out of the water. The gunboats might be able to bang the frigate up a little with LMG fire, but that's it.


I agree with the sentiment here, however, lets not forget how minor skirmishes with gunboats can be the catalyst for events of far greater magnitude!

en.wikipedia.org...



posted on Mar, 14 2006 @ 12:30 AM
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Originally posted by Argus
I agree with the sentiment here, however, lets not forget how minor skirmishes with gunboats can be the catalyst for events of far greater magnitude!

en.wikipedia.org...


Bingo, Argus. Thanks for the example, and that's exactly what the point of this story is meant to illustrate. That area of the Gulf right now is just a powderkeg waiting to explode, and I don't think many people realize just how edgy the situation is over there, and how close we came the other day to potentially having another Golf of Tonkin.

Even so, no one has of yet answered the questions I posed in the original post!



posted on Mar, 14 2006 @ 01:22 AM
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Such naval incidents as described in the original post have frequently been trip-wires for larger conflicts to follow. Navies often mark the furthest outposts of opposing forces and history records
The previously mentioned Gulf of Tonkin is clearly one. The somewhat later Pueblo incident was another. The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The still-disputed explosion of the battleship Maine (Remember?). The Panay incident in China in the 1920's. The piracy off the coast of Tripoli (Semper Fi)

Though the Aussies (god bless 'em) can be counted on to perform in their fine naval traditon, and the weaponry at their disposal is formidable with or without USN backup, the 'swarming' tactics of the Iranian craft is formulated to overwhelm the potential defender by virtue of the volume of attackers. The best analogy would be the massed kamikaze attacks in late WWII at which point the US clearly was dominant in the Pacific theatre, yet still took dreadful losses.
The hidden stash of ammonium nitrate would serve as a fine explosive against the hull of any ship in that region (as in the USS Cole incident in Yemen)... or could severly damage the oil rigs those ships are placed to defend.

It is a very dangerous situation



posted on Mar, 14 2006 @ 03:20 AM
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periwinkle blue, i was thinking swarming too, however bearing in mind that Iran harbours trained suicide squads one could imagine a swarm of suicide boats ala USS Cole, and the potentially catastrophic outcome that such an attack may have on any warship.



posted on Nov, 14 2006 @ 12:07 PM
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*Sigh* I can't believe I've been living outside of Australia for 14 months now. Wow, that picture of Sydney Harbour kinda choked me up a bit, I worked at the Opera House for 6 months on contract doing PC Support.

I became friends with the Art Department and would go up there for lunch and watch the Ferries sale across the harbour to Manly, Taronga Park Zoo, etc. and although I knew it to be a beautiful site, never quite understood just how amazing Sydney Harbour really is.

And you never do whilst you're there. You have to leave to understand it.

But, let me just say to the AWESOME men and women on #154.

AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE
OI, OI, OI !!

Pokey Oats




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