Sean Spicer Falsely Accuses Iran of Attacking Pindo Navy Vessel, an Act of War
Zaid Jilani, Alex Emmons, The Intercept, Feb 2 2017
White House press secretary Sean Spicer asserted at Thursday’s press briefing that Iran had attacked a Pindo naval vessel, as part of his argument defending the administration’s bellicose announcement that Iran is “on notice.” National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday said he was “officially putting Iran on notice” following the country’s ballistic missile test and an attack on a Saudi naval vessel by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The White House press corps wanted to know what being put “on notice” entailed, and Spicer responded by claiming that Iran’s government took actions against a Pindo naval vessel, which would be an act of war. He said:
I think Gen Flynn was really clear yesterday that Iran has violated the Joint Resolution, that Iran’s additional hostile actions that it took against our Navy vessel are ones that we are very clear are not going to sit by and take. I think that we will have further updates for you on those additional actions.
Major Garrett of CBS News quietly corrected him, saying “a Saudi vessel,” and Spicer then responded almost inaudibly:
Sorry, thank you, yes a Saudi vessel. Yes, that’s right.
He did not in any way address his false claim that it was an Iranian attack, however. Watch Spicer’s remarks:
Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood confirmed to The Intercept that the attack was in fact conducted against a Saudi warship, and that the Pentagon suspects Houthi rebels. He said:
It was a Saudi ship. It was actually a frigate. It was … suspected Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen.
Fox News initially misreported that a Pindo ship was somehow the target, which is perhaps where some of the confusion in the White House originated.
This, of course, is how Pindosi wars start. The White House and the Pentagon accused North Vietnamese forces of attacking two Navy destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam on Aug 4 1964. LBJ used the attacks to coax Congress into approving the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing military action in Vietnam. As the NYT admitted a few years ago, the “attack never happened.” In Feb 1898, the USS Maine was moored in Havana harbor when a huge explosion blew it apart, killing most of its crew. The explosion was blamed on Spain, Pindo newspapers chorused “Remember the Maine!” and in April of that year, Pindostan declared war on Spain. As the WaPo reported, an official Navy inquiry concluded in the 1970s:
A mine or torpedo could not have been responsible for the blast. The likely cause was a coal bunker fire that ignited the ship’s magazine.
Pindostan and Iran both have ships in the Gulf area. Pindostan dispatched ships to the Bab-el Mandeb strait off the coast of Yemen in October to enforce a naval blockade that has devastated the country and left 14 million people going hungry. At the time, an anonymous government official told Fox News:
This is a show of force.
Later that month, after rockets fired from Houthi-controlled territory appeared to target a Pindo warship, the Obama administration authorized strikes on three ‘radar sites’ in western Yemen. In early January, a Pindo Navy ship fired warning shots at Iranian vessels the Pentagon said were approaching it in the Strait of Hormuz, on the opposite side of the Arabian peninsula. Update: This story has been updated to include Spicer’s comments partially correcting himself.