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The story of an incident of aggression by Iranian speedboats towards U.S. Navy ships in the strait of Hormuz was manufactured by the Pentagon and planted by the Navy's media chief, Bryan Whitman, with CNN reporter Barbara Starr. The story was blown up from a minor, routine incident and planted in the media at the behest of the highest levels of the Pentagon to create an impetus for international action against Iran to coincide with George Bush's trip to the middle east.

Just two weeks before this incident an identical encounter had taken place without notice. However, this time President Bush was preparing to lead an anti-Iran initiative, so top Pentagon officials met and planned to turn this incident into a "major provocation".  AP inadvertently leaked the name of Bryan Whitman, the planter, who was supposed to go unnamed.

The Iranian speedboat "incident" was turned from a routine situation in the tight straights of Hormuz into a propaganda piece to try to light a fire under our allies in the middle east to unite with President Bush against Iran.

With the reports from Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff in hand early that morning, top Pentagon officials had all day Sunday, January 6, to discuss what to do about the encounter in the Strait of Hormuz. The result was a decision to play it up as a major incident.

The decision came just as President George W Bush was about to leave on a Middle East trip aimed in part at rallying Arab states to join the United States in an anti-Iran coalition.

The story was manufactured.

Then the navy disseminated a short video into which was spliced the audio of a phone call warning that US warships would "explode" in "a few seconds". Although it was ostensibly a navy production, Inter Press Service (IPS) has learned that the ultimate decision on its content was made by top officials of the Defense Department.

The bogus story was then planted by the Navy at CNN and CBS.

At 9am, Barbara Starr of CNN reported that "military officials" had told her that the Iranian boats had not only carried out "threatening maneuvers", but had transmitted a message by radio that "I am coming at you" and "you will explode". She reported the dramatic news that the commander of one boat was "in the process of giving the order to shoot when they moved away".

CBS News broadcast a similar story, adding the detail that the Iranian boats "dropped boxes that could have been filled with explosives into the water". Other news outlets carried almost identical accounts of the incident.

The source of this spate of stories can now be identified as Bryan Whitman, the top Pentagon official in charge of media relations, who gave a press briefing for Pentagon correspondents that morning. Although Whitman did offer a few remarks on the record, most of the Whitman briefing was off the record, meaning that he could not be cited as the source.

This might have been Gulf of Tonkin II but the story wasn't credible. It was quickly debunked by knowledgeable sources and investigative reporters.

I won't further quote the Asia Times article because it would exceed fair use, but the story planting appears to have been approved by the Secretary of Defense. It doesn't take much analysis to see that the Secretary Defense had little to gain and much credibility to lose from this propaganda operation. Therefore, one can reasonably conclude that this story planting was done at the behest of the White House.

Originally posted to FishOutofWater on Wed Jan 16, 2008 at 12:59 PM PST.

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