Fmr. Operations Specialist Chief Petty Officer James Reilly writes:
I’ve spent years on board US naval warships in the gulf. Multiple. Not over the course of years. I mean the amount of time I have spent on board a US naval warship floating in the Persian gulf adds up to many years.
My job was to watch Iran like a hawk. I’ve tracked their ships. I’ve intercepted their aircraft. I have been in charge of Command and Control operations where Iran was our chief objective. My job was to know and understand the operational, strategic and tactical functions of the IRGC. To know what to expect, and why to expect it.
I preface this article this way, because I feel I can speak from a particular place of authority on this subject. I may have my life in the navy behind, but I hasn’t been long enough for reality to conform to this narrative. There is no way that Iran was responsible for these attacks.
Its not a question of why. That’s all I have been hearing from my comrades in the antiwar movement. “Why” is a good question. Why on earth would Iran, having spent the last 5 years attempting to reintegrate with the rest of the world, decide that now, when the Trump administration is most ambitious increase tensions, choose now to pick trivial targets to conduct pointless and unprovocked attacks on.
The problem with the question “why”, is that it assumes the premise. “Why would Iran do this?” begins with assumption that Iran should be a suspect. Before we get that far, we have no reason whatsoever to expect they had anything to do with it. We might as well ask “Why would Iran have played a part in the grocery store robbery that happened in my neighborhood last week?”
Iran is a state actor. It wields legitimate authority, commands a recognized arm forces, controls geographic territory and inland waters. The threat of Iran is their ability to shut down the Straights of Hormuz and restrict access to middle eastern oil. To weild influence in Iraqi political affairs, to lend state support to proxies in regional squabbles. Iran is not a terrorist organization. They aren’t in the business of covert attacks on civilian tankers for whatever purpose.
It’s quite obvious that Iran didn’t directly command these attacks. A reasonable question may be “Who would have conducted such attacks?” Indeed that’s the step intelligence seemed to miss. Instead, they offered us a measly “the sophistication required suggests that Iran must have done it.” I am sorry, what sophistication does Iran have that the rest of the state actors in the middle east, don’t? If sophistication is all we have to go on, we won’t get very far. Luckily the US government has already given us an out. Knowing that they couldn’t possibly pin this on state action, they have widened the net to include groups under Iranian influence. Meaning terrorists? Well, that seems to put the lie to the sophistication angle.
My speculation? Operators in Western intelligence orgs coordinated the sale of limpet mines to Saudi backed Salafists, and politically motivated analysts struck gold when these attacks happened. Hard to say, but that’s my best guess.
The plus side is that my social media feed seems to be unanimous. This is nonsense. It shouldn’t get very far with sentiment the way it is. But I have been surprised before.
James Reilly is a former Chief Operations Specialist in the United States Navy.