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Iran 1, USA 0 By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Wednesday, January 09, 2008


EARLY Sunday morning, the US Navy lost its nerve and guaranteed that American sailors will die at Iranian hands in the future.

As three of our warships passed through the Straits of Hormuz, five small Iranian patrol craft rushed them. As the Revolutionary Guard boats neared our vessels, an Iranian officer broadcast a threat to our ships, claiming they'd soon explode.

The Iranians tossed boxes into the water. Mines? Just in case, our ships took evasive action.

The Iranians kept on coming, closing to a distance of 200 meters - about two football fields. Supposedly, our Navy was ready to open fire but didn't shoot because the Iranians turned away at the moment the order was given.

We should've sunk every one of them.

Not because we're warmongers. But because the Iranians had made threats, verbal and physical, that amounted to acts of war. When will we learn that resolute action taken early saves vast amounts of blood and treasure later?

Oh, from Washington's perspective we did the right thing by "exercising restraint." But Washington's perspective doesn't amount to a gum wrapper in a gutter. What matters is what the Iranians think.

They now believe that the Bush administration, our military and the entire United States are afraid of them.

It goes back to the politicized and irresponsible recent National Intelligence Estimate that insisted the Iranians had abandoned their nuclear-weapons program years ago.

They didn't. They're pursuing enriched uranium as fast as they can. That's what you need for bombs. At most, Tehran ordered its weaponeering efforts to parade rest - until it has the ingredients it needs, after which building bombs won't take long at all.

Forget Washington's trust-fund-twit view of all this: Here's how the train of thought rolled down the tracks in Tehran:

"The Americans have told the world we don't want nuclear weapons, even though they know we do want them. That can only mean that America is afraid to confront us, that their weak, defeated president needs an excuse to back down.

"We can push these cowardly Americans now. They've had enough in Iraq. Their spirits are broken. Their next president will run away like a gazelle pursued by a lion.

"Even their military is frightened of us. On Sunday, America's might bowed down to us. They are frightened and godless, and the time has come to push them."

Sunday's incident wasn't a one-off event improvised by the local yokels after a long Saturday night at the hookah bar. It was blessed and carefully planned in Tehran and had practical as well as political goals.

At the tactical level, the Revolutionary Guards' naval arm was testing our responses: How soon do the American weapons radars activate? At what range do the lasers begin to track targets? How close can a small vessel get to a major American warship? How do the Americans respond to possible mines? Can we use phony mines to steer them into real ones? How long does it take an American commander to make a decision?

Above all: Does an American commander have the courage to make a decision on his own? When he doesn't have time to deflect responsibility onto his superiors?

And it wasn't just some madrassa dropout with salt spray on his glasses scribbling notes on the lead Iranian boat. On shore, the Iranians would've had all their intelligence facilities tuned in to map our electronic profile as our ships prepared to defend themselves. Rent-a-Russian military experts would've been onhand to assist with the newest gear purchased from Moscow.

The Iranians may even have had an escalation plan, in case we opened fire. President Ahmedinejad and his posse may seem contemptible to Washington, but the Iranians think several moves ahead of us: We play checkers, they play chess.

On Sunday, the Iranians tested us. We failed. They'll probe us again. And every time we fail to react decisively, we raise the number of future US casualties.

Remember the USS Cole? You bet the Iranians do. They plan to better that attack by an order of magnitude.

For almost 70 years, we've deployed the finest navy in the history of the world. But it looks increasingly as if we've gone from "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" to "Will this interfere with my next promotion?"


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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