The Uneasy Balance between Care and Provocation

By Walter Pincus

Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Walter Pincus is a contributing senior national security columnist for The Cipher Brief. He spent forty years at The Washington Post, writing on topics that ranged from nuclear weapons to politics. He is the author of Blown to Hell: America's Deadly Betrayal of the Marshall Islanders. Pincus won an Emmy in 1981 and was the recipient of the Arthur Ross Award from the American Academy for Diplomacy in 2010.  He was also a team member for a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 and the George Polk Award in 1978.  

OPINION — This past March and April, US Naval Forces attached to Central Command carried out live fire exercises in the North Persian Gulf’s international waters near Iran, using Army Apache helicopters and AC-130 gunships to practice defense against threats from swarming Iranian speedboats.

Such a US exercise was underway on April 15, when 11 armed speedboats operated by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within close range of six US Navy vessels including the USS Lewis B. Puller, an expeditionary mobile base vessel from which the Apache helicopters were landing and taking off. The US Coast Guard patrol boat Maui was among the accompanying ships that “identified simulated targets for the attack helicopters to engage,” according to an April 15, 2020 press release from the US’ 5th Fleet Public Affairs.

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