Saturday, January 12, 2008

Action alert: What can we do to reduce the risk of a naval incident between the US and Iran triggering a war?

Yesterday I heard about Incidents at Sea agreements for the first time and posted about it here. According to Jim Lobe, there exists “…[T]he possibility that the Navy and the Pentagon chose to dramatize the incident [the recent confrontation in the Straits of Hormuz] not so much to isolate and embarrass Iran as to enhance the chances for a new “incidents-at-sea” agreement that they have been pushing on the White House without success for many months now.

Here’s what I’ve learned and what I think we can do to jump start an effort to get the Bush Administration to start talking with Iran about an Incidents at Sea Agreement.

1. What is an Incident at Sea Agreement? According to the Federation of American Scientists, “The Incidents at Sea Agreement serves to enhance mutual knowledge and understanding of military activities, to reduce the possibility of conflict by accident, miscalculation, or the failure of communication, and to increase stability in times of both calm and crisis."


2. Has the U.S. entered into an Incidents at Sea Agreement with other countries?
Yes.

A. Russia (formerly the USSR): The Agreement was signed by Secretary of State John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov during the Moscow summit meeting in 1972. There’s a good summary of the Agreement at Global Beat Syndicate. This agreement was reached in the middle of the Cold War.

B. China. In January, 1998, China and the United States signed the Agreement.

3. Why won’t the Bush Administration enter into an Incidents at Sea Agreement with Iran if the Navy and Pentagon want it? Beats me.

4. Is Iran open to it? Yes, according to William Arkin, who blogs for The Washington Post, they appear to be open to it. “At this point, Washington has two choices: It can release every shred of intelligence and information it has in an attempt to show how the Iranians are lying. Or it can let the matter drop and focus instead averting these types of incidents in the future. If it chooses the latter, it may find that Iran is a more willing partner than it appears. What Tehran is saying, after all, is quite similar to what the U.S. Navy is saying.”

5. What can we do? Former Secretary of the Navy, John Warner, who signed the Agreement on behalf of the US with the USSR, is an influential Republican US Senator. He retiring at the end of his current term. Why not contact him and ask him to use his power and influence to persuade the Bush Administration to start Incident of the Sea Agreement negotiations with Iran?

How to contact Sen. Warner:
1. Use the CONTACT FORM on his website
2. Call his office: Capitol Switchboard: 800.828.0498, or directly, 202.224.2023
3. Fax or mail a letter: fax: 202.224.6295; Senator John Warner, 225 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510.

(photo of US Naval ships: op-for.com)

5 comments:

John in Cincinnati said...

Done. Used Warner's web form to send message.

In my more cynical moments I trend toward beliefs that currrent administration principals want perpetual war for personal enrichment. More objectively, I sense they're projecting their own paranoia to fellow global players. In either case, none of us will be safer by our wandering into another military adventure.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gail
The first thing I thought upon hearing of the recent incident involving Iranian speed boats and the way it initially seemed to be blown out of proportion by the media and Bush administration was the bogus Bay of Tonkin incident which started the Vietnam war and led to hundreds of thousands of needless death and environmental destruction. I find it depressing how history often repeats itself indicating that we learn nothing as a nation from our past stupidity.
David Herr

chris said...

Likewise, done.

Readers, feel free to borrow text from my message, but do try to make it recognizably your own, to preserve its impact.

Here's the message I sent to Senator Warner:

"Senator Warner,

Why isn't the Bush administration entering into an "Incidents at Sea Agreement" with the nation of Iran, in order to reduce the likelihood that a misunderstanding like the recent mishap in the Straits of Hormuz won't needlessly lead to a military confrontation between our two countries?

According to the Federation of American Scientists, “The Incidents at Sea Agreement serves to enhance mutual knowledge and understanding of military activities, to reduce the possibility of conflict by accident, miscalculation, or the failure of communication, and to increase stability in times of both calm and crisis."

Isn't this exactly the kind of thing the U.S. ought to be forging with Iran at this critical time in history?

The U.S. has entered into Incidents at Sea Agreements with other nations, notably the USSR and China, in order to help avoid unnecessary, dangerous military confrontations over simple misunderstandings or miscommunications involving navy vessels at sea.

We should have such an agreement in place with Iran, to prevent having the kind of thing that happened earlier this week escalating into a war between our two countries ... for nothing.

Please, Senator Warner ... use your considerable influence with the Bush administration to push for such an Incidents at Sea Agreement between the U.S. and Iran. You are uniquely positioned, because of your vast experience with military issues, to successfully promote such an aggreement. I hope you will consider doing so.

It could me avoiding another needless war, so damaging to our country and to the world.

Please let me know what you plan to do on this.

Thank you.

(Signature)"

SGale@1stTuesday.us said...

Thanks for the "heads up" on this issue.

This is the first time I've heard someone advocate for this very direct approach to prevent an excuse for war with Iran.

I have faxed a letter to the Senator's Washington
office.

His fax number is: 202-224-6295

Ann said...

Okay, Gail, I was inspired to write to Senator Warner, as well. Thank youf or the "heads up" and thank you for doing so much to facilitate action.

Chris, congratulations on writing a powerful letter and for posting it so others could use your template.