This incident in the Strait of Hormuz just keeps getting weirder. The Navy Times has a fresh story out this afternoon on the existence of a mythical radio troll that has been hecking ship drivers in the Middle East (hat tip – reader Dan):
The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the “Filipino Monkey.”
Since the Jan. 6 incident was announced to the public a day later, the U.S. Navy has said it’s unclear where the voice came from. In the videotape released by the Pentagon on Jan. 8, the screen goes black at the very end and the voice can be heard, distancing it from the scenes on the water.
“We don’t know for sure where they came from,” said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. “It could have been a shore station.”
While the threat — “I am coming to you. You will explode in a few minutes” — was picked up during the incident, further jacking up the tension, there’s no proof yet of its origin. And several Navy officials have said it’s difficult to figure out who’s talking.
“Based on my experience operating in that part of the world, where there is a lot of maritime activity, trying to discern [who is speaking on the radio channel] is very hard to do,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told Navy Times during a brief telephone interview today.
Apparently, radio trolls have plagued ships for years:
In recent years, American ships operating in the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known as the “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 traveeling 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.
Wherever the voices came from, the Iranian gunboats that descended on our ships were unmistakable. Admiral Fallon spoke out today:
The top U.S. military commander in the Mideast said Friday that Iran runs the risk of triggering an unintended conflict if its boats continue to harass U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.
Adm. William J. Fallon, chief of U.S. Central Command, said a threatening radio call heard during an encounter Sunday between U.S. Navy ships and Iranian boats in the Strait of Hormuz was likely connected to Iran’s provocative actions. He said the exact origin of the message was still unknown.
“This kind of behavior, if it happens in the future, is the kind of event that could precipitate a mistake,” Fallon told The Associated Press. “If the boats come closer, at what point does the captain think it is a direct threat to the ship and has to do something to stop it?”
Iran has tried to downplay the encounter as a normal occurrence, but U.S. officials have said that five Revolutionary Guards boats charged three U.S. Navy ships in a threatening manner, dropping boxes in the water in an apparent attempt to intimidate the Americans. The confrontation occurred just days before President Bush was scheduled to begin his first major Mideast trip.
The Pentagon has released a video showing small Iranian boats swarming around U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. In the recording, a man threatens in accented English, “I am coming to you. … You will explode after … minutes.”
Fallon said Friday that the U.S. was still trying to determine the source of the threatening radio call but remained convinced that it was related to the actions of the Iranian boats.
“The voice is very strange. I don’t know whether it came from the boats or one of the shore stations,” he said in a telephone interview from Central Command headquarters in Florida. “But the timing of it is pretty suspicious. In my mind it is related to the maneuvers.”
What’s going on? Robert Fox smells Iranian politics:
The buzzing of US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz by Revolutionary Guard patrol boats earlier this week may well have been an Iranian electioneering stunt.
While all eyes are on the US presidential election, the Iranian Islamic Republic is gearing up for its seventh election for the assembly on March 14 and it is shaping into a referendum on the policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He and his radicals appear to be losing support, both from the voters who carried him to power and from the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Since last month’s National Intelligence Estimate report showed that Iran appears to have halted its crucial nuclear weapons programme, the US has turned down the threats of military strikes against Iran to just about zero. This has deprived Ahmadinejad of his key stratagem – the need to rally the people to confront the threat from the Great Enemy…