Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hormuz Confrontation: That Voice on the Radio

As I indicated here, and several comments to that post noted, the audio portion of the U.S. released tape of the Iranian small boat adventure contains a threat the origin of which is somewhat suspect. Since then, several bloggers, less experienced with the ways of sea and radio traffic over a common radio circuit, have attempted to use doubts over the audio to assert that the entire incident was with made up or overblown.

My take on the videos is that the Iranians, for reasons of their own, engaged in a little brinksmanship. It is my understanding that this event is but one of a series of Iranian probes of the "bubble" the U.S. tries to maintain over its ships...

But the audio threat? It is well known that the airwaves of the Arabian Gulf are full of strange voices jabbering. As set out in the comments to my earlier linked post, and in ‘Filipino Monkey’ may be behind radio threats, ship drivers say
So with Navy officials unsure and the Iranians accusing the U.S. of fabrications, whose voice was it? In recent years, American ships operating in the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known by the ethnically insulting handle of “Filipino Monkey,” likely more than one person, who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net shouting insults and jabbering vile epithets.

Navy women — a helicopter pilot hailing a tanker, for example — who are overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment.

Several Navy ship drivers interviewed by Navy Times are raising the possibility that the Monkey, or an imitator, was indeed featured in that video.

Rick Hoffman, a retired captain who commanded the cruiser Hue City and spent many of his 17 years at sea in the Gulf was subject to the renegade radio talker repeatedly, often without pause during the so-called “Tanker Wars” of the late 1980s.

“For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats,” he said. “He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship.”

And the Monkey has stamina.

“He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy,” he said. “But who knows how many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”

Furthermore, Hoffman said radio signals have a way of traveling long distances in that area. “Under certain weather conditions I could hear Bahrain from the Strait of Hormuz.”

Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, could not say if the voice belonged to the heckler.

“It’s an international circuit and we’ve said all along there were other ships and shore stations in the area,” he said.

When asked if U.S. officials considered whether the threats came from someone besides the Iranians when releasing the video and audio, Roughead said: “The reason there is audio superimposed over the video is it gives you a better idea of what is happening.”

Similarly, Davis said the audio was part of the “totality” of the situation and helped show the “aggressive behavior.”

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