Responding to questions about his Middle East policy, President George Bush expresses that the Gulf Cooperation Taskforce will be expanded to include a larger naval component, rising from six ships to ten. The ships will all contain Aegis technology and will be stationed across the Strait of Hormuz, preventing any repeat of the 1985 crisis. He also pledges that the security zone surrounding Kuwait will become part of Kuwait, rather than part of the new state of Sumeria, and that Kuwait will be permitted to exploit the oil resources of the zone. A greater number of AWACs will be transferred into Oman.
US President Bush meets with Senate leaders to insist that the Gulf Cooperation Taskforce requires six more ships in order to provide “sufficient threat to contain the potential for Iranian aggression”. He has already dispatched the USS Constellation. He warns that a future Syrian government may itself decide to interfere in Iraq and that the United States needs to be in the region to provide balance. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin states that the President “hasn’t figured out what he’s getting into here”.
With the background of an exchange of gunfire in the streets of Damascus, former US President Richard Nixon states that a “historic opportunity” exists for the United States to bring democracy to the Middle East. He points out the two key regional Soviet allies, Iraq and Syria, are both in chaos. He suggests that a new democratic Sumeria will begin a process of transformation across the region. However, he warns that the Egyptians and Soviets have quickly improving relations, pointing to debt forgiveness, aid and a new $600 million trade deal.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze criticises the build-up of US forces in the Persian Gulf. He expresses fear that the situation in the Middle East may lead to “increasingly radical shifts in the regional balance of power”. He is also concerned that Israel may take advantage of Syria’s current weakness, engulfing not only the two powers but their superpower protagonists. He also states that he is hopeful for the role of a united Germany as a neutral arbiter between East and West and “as a key Soviet partner”.
US Secretary of Defence Richard Cheney states that the United States Navy has shot down a missile launched over the Persian Gulf from Iranian soil. He also warns about increasing numbers of gunboats being active in the Gulf.
France terminates diplomatic relations with Iran, causing Tehran to dispatch Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Mohtashami to Paris. French workers have left the city, or moved into the nearby Italian Embassy. US President George Bush declares strong support for President Fabius and activates that the Gulf Cooperation Taskforce components at Khor Fakkan (UAE) and Mina al Ahmadi (Kuwait) to increase their supervision of Iranian shipping.
Senator Al Gore of Tennessee breaks with other Democratic candidates to declare his strong support for the US intervention in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East generally. Citing his record in Vietnam, he criticises his competitors stating that, “Talking tough does not substitute for credibility and a willingness to fight for something you believe in.”
US Defense Secretary Richard Cheney states that his country will not escalate the conflict with Iran. “There are contingencies in place to deal with Iran,” he states, “but we will move only if they do.”
Protestors jam Tehran’s Revolution Avenue as parliamentary speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani pledges his nation will “avenge the blood” of the Iranian pilgrims killed in Mecca. Ayatollah Hossain Ali Montazeri calls the Saudi royal family “inept and spineless” and states that “it is the will of Allah that, at the opportune time, we will deal with and uproot these agents of the Great Satan”. To indicate its position, Iran will once again conduct war games in the Strait of Hormuz for the first time since the 1985 crisis.
The USSR announces a deal with Iran to create a second rail link to the country through Central Asia to assist a trade in petrochemicals and steel. It appears to confirm a significant shift in superpower policy in the region, with Soviet loyalties moving from Baghdad to Tehran. It is also revealed today that British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock has declined a Pentagon request to send a British naval contingent to the Persian Gulf to reinforce the US position.
In an exchange of fire over the Strait of Hormuz, two US Navy fighters fire their Sparrow missiles to destroy two Iranian jets that appear to be moving to engage. US President George Bush advises the US people that he has contacted Prime Minister Neil Kinnock and President Laurent Fabius, who have both agreed to dispatch forces and ships to the Persian Gulf in response to the “unceasing aggression of Iran”.
Polling among the US population indicate that 63% support a role for the US armed forces in the Persian Gulf and 71% believe that the US should retaliate against the “Iranian air offensive”. 65% believe that the US stand will lead to greater terrorism, 54% believe that there will be a military exchange between the US and Iran, but only 32% believe it will lead to full-scale war.
The US Navy supply ship, USS Guadalcanal, begins retaliation on Iran by dumping a large number of mines off Bushehr, the main Iranian port. As Iran begins to divert its oil holdings through a converted Soviet gas pipeline, President Ali Khamenei accuses the Saudi Arabians of conspiracy with the “Great Satan”. He pledges that Iran will not be frustrated by the US action.
With Iran contained by the US Navy, Saudi Arabian Interior Minister, Prince Naif, takes off the gloves to attack on behalf of his family. He calls Ayatollah Montazeri of Iran a “conspirator” and “the leader of criminals”. Meanwhile, members of the US Congress begin to express concern that the country could be headed to war in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, an idea which President George Bush actively denies.
The Iranian Air Force strikes an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf off the island of Sirri, northwest of Dubai. US President George Bush goes to the United Nations, where the Security Council passes a resolution condemning Iranian aggression and demanding that Iran cease its harassment of shipping in the Persian Gulf.
The Arab League ministers meet in Cairo, Egypt to make a statement of solidarity with Persian Gulf member states. Secretary General Chedli Klibi demands that Iran cease “provocation and intervention in the sovereign affairs of the Arab League” and suggests that Iran’s action could be legitimately held in law to be a violation of its ceasefire agreement with Iraq.
US President George Bush announces the bombing of Iranian Silkworm missile sites in retaliation for the tanker bombing and calls for United Nations sanctions to be imposed on Iran. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze flies into Teheran to meet with Iranian authorities and to attempt to prevent further deterioration of the security situation.
Iranian President Ali Khamenei demands the removal of US mines from Iranian ports, but states clearly that his nation does not want to engage in active hostilities with the United States. However, he sets a deadline, giving the United States twenty-one days to “reverse its hostility against Iranian sovereignty” and states that Iran will take no further military action until then. He also places primary blame for the crisis on “the illegitimate and unworthy guardians of the Holy Cities”. US President George Bush responds by dispatching Secretary of State, James Baker, to the Middle East, stating the need to negotiate a broader partnership between the Arab nations.
UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar arrives in Teheran to discuss the escalating crisis in the Persian Gulf. He emerges from talks to declare that Iran is prepared to cooperate with a UN effort to broker an end to the standoff. British Foreign Secretary David Steel states his nation’s dismay at the escalation of violence in the region and calls on the United States to show “restraint and willingness to compromise”.
US President George Bush states that the Iranians have finally agreed to cease operations without notification in the Persian Gulf. Accordingly, he will allow a United Nations operation to remove mines from Bushehr port and will cease surgical attacks against Iranian targets. He also expresses hope that a similar peaceful resolution will be achieved in the tense standoff in Panama so that US troops on rotation can be reduced.
Forces operating under a United Nations flag begin mine-clearing operations around the Iranian port of Bushehr. Ayatollah Hossain Ali Montazeri insists that the “Great Satan will pay for its abominations” and that the Iranian people will “rely patiently on the wisdom of God until this trial has passed”.
Two Iranian gunboats fire on an unarmed US observation helicopter in a move described by diplomats as “bold and belligerent”. While supporters of Grand Ayatollah Ali Hossain Montazeri insist he is attempting to avoid confrontation, US Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney claims that ongoing public proclamations of hostility suggest that he does not have the support of his military or his people. He cites as evidence a recent but undisclosed attempt to attack the USS Kidd. House Armed Services Committee chairman, Les Aspin, suggests that the President should seek congressional approval rather than continuing an “open-ended, ill-defined commitment” to contain Iran.
A truck bomb detonates outside Mina al-Shuwaik, the major port centre serving Kuwait City. No organisation claims responsibility for the attack, but most unofficial sources suggest that the action was authorised by Mohammed Reyshahri, the Iranian Minister of Intelligence. Those who disagree with the analysis tend to believe that Iran undertook the action at arm’s length.
A second terrorist strike in Kuwait cripples an oil-loading facility, temporarily crippling the country’s ability to load large supertankers. The Kuwaiti royal family responds by authorising the United States to install missiles on their soil for the first time and allowing the US Navy a permanent facility on Failaka Island, about twenty-five kilometres northeast of the capital.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger argues that the United States is doing harm to its diplomatic position as a “neutral arbiter” in the Middle East, “encouraging the Israelis to sacrifice their future security for Arab self-esteem”. He calls on President George Bush to show restraint in criticising the recent tensions in Israel.
After a series of talks aimed at reaching some level of understanding, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia announces the termination of diplomatic ties with Iran. He also states that the visa quota to allow Iranian Muslims to complete the Hajj will be cut by seventy percent, supposedly to reduce crowding and increase the safety of pilgrims. In response to the increased tensions, US Congressional leaders decide to increase direct funding for their Gulf Cooperation Taskforce by $800 million in the next budgetary year.
US President George Bush confirms a Pentagon leak that he will reduce the total force commitment to the Persian Gulf. Previously maintaining a flotilla of over forty ships, the US Navy will draw down on the Gulf Cooperation Taskforce and total ships remaining on duty will now number twenty-six. Savings to the budget are estimated at $240 million per year. He again repeats a phrase from his UN speech, stating that the world is enjoying “an epidemic of peace” and jokes that the White House Situation Room has not been used since July.