Thursday, December 29, 2011

DEBKA says Iran may be salting Hormuz with mines

If that headline doesn't put fear into your stomach, I don't know what will.

However, DEBKA has a track record of being more rumor than not. However there I have confirmed several elements of their report, while not being able to confirm the mining part. Let's sort out the information to see what has credibility and what doesn't. The report is making huge waves and even Ynet picked up on it, which is a legitimate news outlet, so let's take this lobster apart.

DEBKA: who is DEBKA? DEBKAfile describes themselves as "founded by a team of journalists in June 2000 as an independent Internet Web site, providing an intelligence and security news service." Wikipedia describes them as "a Jerusalem-based English language Israeli open source military intelligence website with commentary and analyses on terrorism, intelligence, security, and military and political affairs in the Middle East. The word "Debka" refers to an Arab folk dance."

They correctly note that most of their sources are anonymous, a non-no in journalism. "Israeli intelligence officials do not consider even 10 percent of the site's content to be reliable. Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf calls Debka his "favorite alarmist Israeli website trading in rumors." The site's operators, in contrast, state that 80 percent of what Debka reports turns out to be true, and point to its year 2000 prediction that al-Qaeda would again strike the World Trade Center, and that it had warned well before the 2006 war in Lebanon that Hezbollah had amassed 12,000 Katyusha rockets pointed at northern Israel."

So there you have the pro and the con of DEBKAfile. Let's take a look at their predictions, rather than their descriptions.

This blogger has listed four years' worth of DEBKA warnings that have failed to come true. He says of Debkafile, "where war always looms in the foggy but near future." Of this warning from 2008, the blogger notes the headline from DEBKAfile- “Three major US naval strike forces due this week in Persian Gulf“, 'DEBKAfile’s military sources name the three US strike forces en route to the Gulf as the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Iwo Jima. Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden' and he comments, "Disturbing news! Or rather it would be, except that the USS Theodore Roosevelt is docked at Norfolk."

In today's warning, DEBKA opened their report with the following, "Thursday afternoon, Dec. 29, Tehran raised the pitch of its threats to the United States when Dep. Chief of the Revolutionary Guards Gen. Hossein Salami declared: "The United States is in no position to tell Tehran what to do in the Strait of Hormuz," adding, "Any threat will be responded [to] by threat… We will not relinquish our strategic moves in Iran's vital interests are undermined by any means. "The Iranian general spoke after the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and its strike group passed through the Strait of Hormuz to the Sea of Oman and into the area where the big Iranian naval war game Veleyati 90 is taking place."

This is true. The quote about threats is confirmed in many newspapers, this being just one. I worked hard to confirm that the USS Stenis is indeed in the waters DEBKA says they are, and the carrier is indeed part of the Fifth Fleet stationed at nearby Bahrain and in those waters. Confirmation is here: "Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet, said the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay headed out from the Persian Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, after a visit to Dubai's Jebel Ali port." And also here.

The DEBKA report continued, "Earlier Thursday, Dec. 29, DEBKAfile reported that an Iranian plan to mine the Strait of Hormuz had put US and NATO forces in the Persian Gulf on the alert. US and NATO task forces in the Persian Gulf have been placed on alert after US intelligence warned that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are preparing Iranian marine commandos to sow mines in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The new deployment, DEBKAfile's military sources report, consists of USS Combined Task Force 52 (CTF 52), which is trained and equipped for dismantling marine mines and NATO Maritime Mine Counter measures Group 2 (SNMCMG2). The American group is led by the USS Arden mine countermeasures ship; NATO's by the British HMS Pembroke minesweeper. Other vessels in the task forces are the Hunt-class destroyer HMS Middleton and the French mine warfare ships FS Croix du Sud and FS Var."

It was here I ran into problems. First, sowing mines would harm Iran, who relies on exporting oil through that strait as much as anyone, and so does Iran's neighbors. Mining it would seem to be counterproductive and an inefficient way to choke off the Western use of the Strait, especially when there are other means Iran can use to do the job. But what do I know I'm not a military analyst. I'm just a woman blogging in her pajamas.

Given DEBKA's history of putting the wrong ship in the wrong waters, I took some time to confirm that USS Combined Task Force 52 (CTF 52), NATO Maritime Mine Counter measures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) are indeed part of the Fifth Fleet. I had already confirmed through two other news articles that the USS Stennis is where DEBKA says it is. I didn't bother looking up the British or French ships, searching through US ships was difficult enough

As for the USS Arden, I found nothing. After going to the Wikipedia list of all Navy ships currently in commission, I found that there is no USS Arden, but a USS Ardent. USS Ardent is a minesweeper. So they got the name wrong, but the ship class right. I went to the Navy website and USS Ardent is deployed at this time to Bahrain, which is its homeport.

In several articles I read things like 'the USS Stennis passed through the Strait of Hormuz with escorts" or "the USS Stennis passed through the Strait of Hormuz with supply ships" but where those other ships were listed (USS Mobile Bay) the USS Ardent never was.

Ynet is a very credible Israeli new outlet. In today's article they seemed to quote DEBKA, saying "The Islamic republic is halfway through 10 days of navy exercises in international waters to the east of the strait that have reportedly included the laying of mines and the use of aerial drones."

As for the likelihood that Iran is salting the Strait of Hormuz with mines, I don't know. I don't think DEBKA knows. Here is what is do know, though, The tension at that area of the world is at an unbearable level. Any spark could set it off. As NPR succinctly concluded, "The Strait is a 50-kilometre (31 mile) wide passageway through which about a third of the world’s oil tanker traffic sails. Whoever controls this crucial choke-point virtually controls Middle East oil exports."

Here are some of today's headlines about the situation:

Iran Rebuffs US Warning on Strait of Hormuz as Tensions Rise

Iran ramps up war of words with U.S. over Strait of Hormuz: ‘Any threat will be responded by threat’

Gas price shoots up to $3.49 in Tri-Cities ("A rise in crude oil prices and tension between the U.S. and Iran over the Strait of Hormuz are possibly contributing to the increase cost.")

[An actual blockade would double the price overnight.]

Iran Says It Recorded Video Of US Aircraft Carrier

Between the genocide in Syria and the tense faceoff between the US Navy and the Iranian Navy, it surely feels like war could erupt at any moment. This is an interesting piece from HuffPo yesterday:

The Coming Accidental War with Iran
"...due to the lack of understanding between our government and Iranian leaders who have been isolated from the rest of the world, war will not be a decision, but a mistake."

God has a plan for the world, for Iran and the other Arab states,and for Israel. He does not make mistakes. What is unfolding is exactly according to what we see in Obadiah, Isaiah 17, Ezekiel 38-39, Matthew 24, Psalm 83 and many other bible books and parts of books. The issue is, because we so vividly see the prophesied Tribulation events unfolding in preparation for fulfillment, how much closer then, is the rapture? And the other important question is,

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