Iran’s Limpet Mine Tanker War

The US Navy has caught the Iranian Revolutionary Guard removing a limpet mine from Japanese Merchant Vessel Kokuka Courageous. The crew abandoned ship after seeing the second — failed — limpet mine on its hull and was picked up by the Dutch tug Coastal Ace.

There was then a race between an Iranian Hendijan class patrol boat and a US destroyer to pick up the Kokuka Courageous crew from Coastal Ace. The destroyer, USS Bainbridge, won the race.  The video below is of a IRGC Gashti class patrol boat that approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous afterwards.  It is digital video recorded from USS Bainbridge or one of its aircraft showing the removal of the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

The earlier tanker attack on the Norwegian Front Altair saw the IRGC take the crew hostage and transport them to Iran.

This Iranian behavior is the classic “Irrational regimes become more so under pressure” hypothesis in action.

The basic concept is that for certain unstable regimes (or even stable ones with no effective means of resolving internal disputes peacefully, particularly the succession of power) domestic power games are far more important than anything foreign, and that foreigners are only symbols to use in domestic factional fights.

What you are seeing here with the “Limpet Mine Tanker War” are the externals of the internal mullah factional power games of Who can be more nutball than thou” to gain more short term power without regards to external reality.

(“Nutball” in this case meaning “Attack the Great Satan” to show you are more daring, militant, and blessed by Allah.  Thus deserving of power, money and followers inside the Iranian mullahocracy.)

Now, as an exercise in pattern recognition, use this template and replace “foreigners” with “other political party”.

Hint — In political parties and other NGOs it’s all about being captured in a “patron-client” relationship by the narrow interests with the most money.

If you want to know why things are so crazy in world and domestic American politics, applying the “Irrational regimes become more so under pressure” hypothesis, which is driving Iran’s Limpet Mine Tanker War, will do much to answer the question.


32 thoughts on “Iran’s Limpet Mine Tanker War”

  1. Goldman/Spengler’s has pointed out that the Mullahs effing up agricultural water supplies in Iran through 30(+) years of neglect and corruption makes it a life and death right now for lots of Iranian farmers versus the Mullah regime.

    Also note: 40% of bank loans in Iran are non-performing for reason of Mullah corruption.

    And related on the inflation front:

    The rial was approx 250 rial to the dollar in 1975.

    Now it’s 41,000.

    Farmer’s cannot be bought off and there is no water…This is the definition of “desperate ground.”

  2. It appears the Twitter censors are out in force regards “Iran’s Limpet Mine Tanker War” as my tweets about my blog post here have vanished from _my own_ Twitter feed.

  3. Last month we announced to the world that we were sending the USS Abraham Lincoln to guard the Strait of Hormuz to prevent an impending Iranian attack. It’s been parked there for the past several weeks. Now that the attack has finally occurred, Lincoln was in perfect position to observe it, and now it is in perfect position to retaliate against Iran. They even attacked a Japanese ship. It’s owned by a country which has become America’s closest foreign ally and whose leader, Shinzo Abe, has grown very close to Trump.

    We could not have planned our response better, and Iran could not have possibly planned their attack any worse.

    Fortunately for us, Iran is acting irrationally in a rather rational way.

  4. Trent: “… my tweets about my blog post here have vanished from _my own_ Twitter feed.”

    Twitter simply does not want you confusing yourself with your own observations, Trent.

    Seriously, I am ignoring all the media coverage of this event for now. There are bound to be a lot of inaccurate early reports, misunderstood by media blondes speaking with the full authority of their Ivy League degrees in Lesbian Dance — people who could not tell a limpet mine from a conch shell. Media types waiting for the authoritative UN investigation to be completed, maybe shortly after the Palestinian situation is resolved. Media types who are interested only in how many women & transgendered People of Color were involved in the incident.

    Trent, please keep tabs on what is known and share it with the rest of us. I trust you!

  5. The Iran rulers have become progressively more corrupt as the years go by. They are also incompetent. I had not seen the item about the irrigation systems. It does sound a bit like California and the reasons are similar. Incompetence,

  6. Iran is undergoing a demographic contraction that will soon greatly reduce the number of young men available as cannon fodder. The mullahs are truly in a “use it or lose it” situation as regards their ability to engage in military adventures.

  7. I Checked just now on the smart phone and suddenly they were back in one of the places I posted.

    But not all.

  8. With the limpet mine attack occurring while PM Abe was actually sitting down with Khamenei in Tehran, I also wonder how much control the Iranian government has over the IRGC. The episode makes me think of the Kwantung Army of 1937.

  9. Seems likely Iran wants to provoke a response, no? If the sanctions are punishing them severely enough they’re probably figuring US military action against them would be a net positive, politically and otherwise.

  10. It appears Iran was doing a whole hell of a lot more than attaching limpet mines to tankers.

    They thought they had nailed the MQ-9 Reaper drone flying CAP over the tankers with a surface to air missile.

    See the link and screaming headlines:

    BREAKING NEWS: Iran launched MISSILE at U.S. drone monitoring its patrol boats before attacking two tankers in the Gulf of Oman – and their allies took down a Reaper drone days ago, Pentagon sources reveal

    President Donald Trump accused Iran of attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, saying the U.S. had evidence to support the allegation
    Officials now say an American drone spotted Iranian vessels closing in on the tankers before Iran fired a surface-to-air missile at it
    The rocket missed its target and splashed into the water
    The tankers were hit by explosions Thursday, erupting one in a giant fireball
    ‘Iran did do it,’ Trump said on ‘Fox & Friends,’ adding: ‘We don’t take it lightly’
    ‘They didn’t want the evidence left behind. They don’t know that we have things that we can detect in the dark that work very well,’ the president said
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also accused Iran of causing the blasts
    Tehran rejected that claim, saying they were trying to help rescue the crews
    One tanker was Japanese-owned; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemed it after talking with Trump but didn’t explicitly blame Iran
    The UN secretary-general has called for a UN-led investigation

  11. The Persian Gulf is pretty tight for a carrier, it’s only about 100 miles wide. If I was in Iran and heard that the Lincoln was departing for the Indian Ocean, I’d duck. There’s still the big air base in Qatar.

  12. this is why they dragged out a faux Iranian defector, to silence heshmat alavi, this week, and Dorsey complied like the camera flash looking cylon on original battlestar galactica, (he’s an expert on the gulf cooperation council, which would likely handle this problem) oman is interesting because it has tried to navigate the space between the kingdom and Qatar and Iran, that really hasn’t worked out,

  13. We’re living in crazy world. Cruising the internet today there’s nothing but “the US intelligence community is a bunch of liars” from the same folks who have now spent almost three years saying “doubting the US intelligence community is treason.” It’s mind boggling.

  14. Brian,

    Modern newsies don’t do news. With a decreasing number of exceptions, they do Leftie mob emotional expressions. Chief among them: “Orange Man Bad.”

    The larger context of events here matter a great deal. Before the two tankers were attacked, the Iranians lobbed a SAM at the MQ-9 Reaper that was over flying the tankers. It missed, but the Reaper removed itself from the threat envelope and uncovered the tankers.

    USS Brainbridge was closing the location after the Reaper left, but given the Iranian SAM shot it would risk neither it’s manned SH-60 nor its helicopter derived Fire Scout UAV (assuming it had one).

    The video of the IRGC boat removing the Limpit mine was most likely taken by a Boeing Scan Eagle UAV, whether from USS Brainbridge or another USN platform in the area. The Scan Eagle is a micro-UAV with about eight hours endurance and a low cost sensor suite, AKA it was both expendable and hard to spot.

    The IRGC took the crew of the Norwegian tanker to Iran via armed intimidation after its crew had been rescued by a South Korean merchant vessel.

    Furthermore, armed IRGC boats have prevented the Japanese company from towing it’s tanker from the area.

    The BLUF — An armed faction of the IRGC is playing games of piracy both as an attempt to increase oil prices and to show “chest hair” in an internal power faction dispute among the Mullah’s.

  15. This tweet roughly covers the current media situation vis a vis “Iran’s Limpet Mine Tanker War.”

    Omri Ceren
    7 hours ago

    In 2019, America’s top media outlets converged with its foreign policy elites to run interference for *checks notes* a terror regime that’s killed 1000s of Americans and is committing state piracy by attacking & seizing sailors engaged in commercial shipping in intl waters.

    US Media are the enemies of American Freedom and the cabana boys of Foreign Tyranny.

    And it has been that way for decades, regards CNN and its pay for play relationship with the executed by it’s Iraqi victims Saddam Hussein regime.

  16. Trent, I don’t mind partisan vipers pretending to do news, it’s the brazenness of it all that’s so breathtaking. How do you respond to these people?

  17. Brian,

    I don’t trust media brand names or platforms anymore.

    I trust a few really good reporters who have brands independent of platforms. These are my top three:

    Salena Zito on U.S. Domestic political reporting

    Jude Clemente of Forbes Magazine on Energy policy reporting

    Bill Gertz on National Security


    A couple of web sites are on my must read list:

    “Sundance’s” The Conservative Treehouse for anything “Spygate” related

    Real Clear Defense
    This site aggregates MSM owned Defense industry media, but it has been somewhat useful for all that

    I am also on several e-mail lists which share stuff you don’t see elsewhere.

  18. The latest from the Centcom twitter feed —

    .@CENTCOM on tanker attacks: “a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a US MQ-9, at 6:45am local time, June 13, over the Gulf of Oman, to disrupt surveillance of the (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous…”

  19. We have evidence, but there are still doubts about motive and intent. This brings up more questions than answers.

    We sent a carrier strike group to patrol the strait. Are we now going to escort every ship that passes through?

    The Gulf oil we would be guarding now competes with American oil. How do we reconcile a dual role as the world’s policeman refereeing sea lanes that now mostly serve China with the important need to protect our own exports that are increasingly going to Europe?

    At the very least someone else should be paying for our military presence there. Trump has hinted in the past that Saudi Arabia has invested in America in exchange for our protection. We need to see some hard numbers. Maybe we also should link some of the Chinese tariffs with our military actions.

  20. Grurray,

    What most people have missed in all this — and all the MSM because “Orange Man Bad — is how vulnerable Iran is and how Pres. Trump is holding fire for the sake of Israeli civilians.

    A single pass by a B-2 with 80 each 500-lb JDAM bombs would turn Iran’s Kharg Island export infrastructure into a smoking, twisted, ruin that would take years to replace.

    Zero oil income means the Mullah’s fall in a few weeks.

    The issue has always been what sort of “Après nous, le déluge” the Mullah’s would engage in in those few weeks.

    There are 40,000 Iranian long range [ 40KM(+)] artillery rockets in Gaza and Lebanon with Hamas (10K) and Hezbollah (30k). Many of which now have GPS guidance so they are all but guaranteed to hit Israeli high population density areas or IDF high value military targets.

    Israel has a lot of Iron Dome launchers and interceptors…but not enough to stop a saturation attack of 40K rockets, many of which are guided.

    That Pres. Trump has held fire is a deference of the class given to the U.K. or Japan. Not what either President Bush did when fighting Iraq.

    So if America really does strike. Iran. You will see a preemptive strike by Israel on every known Iranian rocket bunker within 150 km of the Israeli border timed with or before the B-2 strike on Kharg Island.

    And the opening volley won’t be from the Israeli Air Force. It will be the Israeli Ground Forces lobbing it’s entire stock of American GMLRS and local IDF guided ballistic artillery rocket equivalents as Hamas agents start to see “Elephant Walks” at IDF air bases and try to call through jammed cell phones.

    See the background on this below:

    Air Defense: Iron Dome Overwhelmed

    June 5, 2019: While the Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system has been successful since it entered service in 2011, a May 2019 attack with 700 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza demonstrated a known weakness. Although Iron Dome has handled 2,100 interceptions since 2011 the recent May attack was the first time the Islamic terrorists deliberately tried to exploit the one known weakness; you can overwhelm an Iron Dome battery if you fire too many projectiles in a short period of time. The 2019 attack killed four Israelis and wounded 130. The concentrated rocket fire meant 14 percent of rockets headed for populated areas were not stopped. Worse, the Palestinians were using larger rockets fired at more distant (and densely populated) targets. In previous attacks, Iron Dome had intercepted 90 percent of rockets headed for populated areas.

    Iron Dome faces two major threats. In Gaza, Hamas and Iran backed Islamic Jihad each have over 10,000 rockets available. In the north, Iran-backed Hezbollah has over 30,000 rockets in southern Lebanon. Both of these groups could jointly unleash a massive launch of rockets. They are dissuaded by most Lebanese, who do not support Hezbollah and see that organization as a growing threat to Lebanon rather than a defender. Israel has told Lebanon that if Hezbollah attacks the Israeli retaliation will be against all of Lebanon and the damage to infrastructure will be massive. In the south, Israel and Egypt have both warned of dire consequences if a massive rocket attack is launched on Israel. Most Gaza residents also oppose another war with Israel. Dire threats don’t always work with Islamic terror groups but Israel has a long record of actually delivering on the retaliation. So it is difficult to hope massive damage can somehow be avoided. Moreover the more you threaten Israel, the more money and effort they spend on preparing for attacks. For example, money for Iron Dome upgrades (longer range rockets linked batteries fire control) and more batteries have been stalled by defense budget restrictions. That tends to change if the mass rocket threat is seen as increasing.

    Using Iron Dome effectively has always been a matter of numbers. In the 2014 50-day war with Hamas, Iron Dome intercepted 735 Hamas rockets, which were 90 percent of those headed for populated or military base areas. That was up from the eight-day 2012 war where there were 421 intercepts and of those 84 percent were headed for populated or military base areas. The 50-day war faced 9,000 Hamas rockets, of which 40 percent were locally made. The local models are less accurate and reliable than the factory made rockets. More of the locally produced rockets never made it into Israel, either exploding in the air or falling within Gaza. The factory made rockets were much more reliable.

    Hezbollah has nothing but Iranian factory made rockets. How many Hezbollah could launch (as many as ten times what Hamas got into the air during the 2014 war) depends on what disruption plans (air, ground and special operations) Israel has and how effective these plans are. This has Hezbollah worried because they noted that Hamas underestimated Israel during the 2014 war and saw all their “secret weapons and special plans” fail. The Israelis are determined to do the same to Hezbollah. On top of this Hezbollah has suffered heavy losses in Syria, where they were ordered by their Iranian backers to join the effort to keep the Assad government in power. Iran has long supported both Hezbollah, the Assads and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The problem is that most Lebanese hate the Assads and Syrians in general. Thus Hezbollah efforts to support the Assads have been very unpopular in Lebanon and this has made it easier for Israel to gather intelligence on the ground and support from some anti-Hezbollah Lebanese factions. Recently the increased impact of restored (in early 2017) American sanctions on Iran were felt by Hezbollah. In 2019 Iran began sending half as much cash has they had been supplying. This led to pay cuts or unemployment for thousands of Hezbollah employees.

    For a long time, the Hezbollah threat was greater not just because they have more rockets, but because a growing percentage of them (over 5,000) are long range models that can reach just about everywhere in Israel. More of these are being equipped with GPS guidance, meaning a higher proportion of rockets will be certain to hit populated areas unless intercepted. These, as Hezbollah likes to point out, could shut down all the ports and airports in Israel, at least to commercial traffic. Israel has been working on deploying its ten Iron Dome batteries in the north and use them to concentrate on the longer-range rockets. But Iron Dome is seen as the last defense line. The primary weapon against all those rockets is intelligence, diplomacy (with local opposition factions in Gaza and Lebanon) and precision weapons (bombs, missiles and shells). Another powerful weapon are threats Israel had demonstrated, many times in the past, they are willing to carry out. One of these is to tell the residents of southern Lebanon, near the Israeli border, that if there is even the credible threat of a mass Hezbollah attack, Israel will hit known Hezbollah rocket stockpiles with rockets and airstrikes. This is scary because Hezbollah has built homes, hospitals, Mosques and schools over these stockpiles. The civilians living over these rocket storage sites know they are human shields but live there anyway because the houses were cheap and the risk of Israel attacking residential areas was remote. Israel can declare the threat no longer remote but a certainty. The Israelis would do this if they calculated a mass Hezbollah attack would result in heavy Israeli civilian casualties. Most Israeli Arabs live in the north and they have also been demanding better defenses against Hezbollah.

    Meanwhile, Israel has developed planning and predictive analytics software to help with outsmarting Hamas. This is nothing new as the key to Iron Dome’s success is its software. Iron Dome uses two radars to quickly calculate the trajectory of the incoming rocket and does nothing if the rocket trajectory indicates it is going to land in an uninhabited area. This means the software can also tell if the rocket is going deep into Israel. If the software predicts a rocket coming down in an inhabited area, a Tamir guided missile is fired to intercept the rocket. This software has been very successful.

    In the north, against Hezbollah Iron Dome will also be able to prioritize Tamir launches to go after the rockets predicted to do the most damage. This makes the system very efficient and cost-effective. That’s because most of these unguided rockets land in uninhabited or thinly populated areas but the few of those that do land in populated areas inflict casualties. Those long-range rockets can land in very densely populated urban areas.

    There’s nothing special about most of the Iron Dome components. The Tamir missiles each weigh 90 kg (200 pounds), are three meters (9.8 feet) long, and 160mm in diameter. They have the usual components of a guided missile (rocket motor, electronics, and mechanical devices to actuate the fins and batteries). Such interceptor missiles are increasingly common, but usually against much faster ballistic missiles. Without the predictive software, Iron Dome would quickly run out of missiles and be much more expensive to operate as well.

    Israel had bought ten Iron Dome batteries and has so far been unsuccessful in obtaining the cash to purchase another five. Each of the Iron Dome batteries has radar and control equipment and three or four missile launchers (each containing twenty missiles). Each battery costs about $50 million, which includes up to a hundred Tamir missiles. These cost $40,000 each. That’s down from $90,000 each because of design improvements and production in larger quantities.

    In addition to buying more batteries, the manufacturer is also offering an upgraded Tamir design that has a range of 250 kilometers (versus the current 70 kilometers). This would enable batteries to overlap coverage and concentrate fire against mass rocket launches during a short period of time. Then there is the larger proportion of rockets being larger (more explosives in the warhead) and guided (more will head for populated areas). This may prompt buying five more batteries and the longer range Tamir missile. The only alternative is to use the new David’s Sling anti-aircraft missiles against the larger guided rockets. The problem is that David’s Sling interceptor missiles cost a million dollars each and there are far fewer of them in inventory.

  21. A single pass by a B-2 with 80 each 500-lb JDAM bombs would turn Iran’s Kharg Island export infrastructure into a smoking, twisted, ruin that would take years to replace.

    That was the Joint Chiefs ‘ recommendation to Carter when the hostages were taken. It would probably have ended the hostage situation and caused Carter’s reelection.

  22. It seems obvious to me that it is extremely important to Trump that next year he can say he is the first president in a long, long time not to have started a war. I don’t think he’s going to approve overt military action against Iran for any reason short of an open attack on America. The mullahs are getting desperate and think that getting attacked by America might be their only hope for survival, but I don’t think they’re going to get their wish.

  23. In 2019 Iran began sending half as much cash has they had been supplying. This led to pay cuts or unemployment for thousands of Hezbollah employees.

    What has got me somewhat suspicious of this incident is this. In March, Pompeo visited both Jerusalem and Beirut. Since then, the rumor mills have been reporting that an agreement brokered by the State Department was imminent on the disputed maritime border between Lebanon and Israel.

    There is apparently some urgency to get Lebanon into the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. Hezbollah agreed to talks with Israel, according to reports, so some Iranian elements must have also signed off on it.

    Also, for most of April and into May we had two carrier strike groups patrolling and making port calls inside the Mediterranean, the Stennis and Lincoln. This was not a normal deployment for the navy, at least since the Cold War ended.

    The timing of this attack throws all those plans into disarray. Frankly, it’s a big blow to what may have been a major diplomatic achievement. Natural gas is one of the few things Israel and the Palestinians agreed on, and it was almost something Israel was going to agree on with Lebanon.

  24. Grurray,

    Regards this:

    >>The timing of this attack throws all those plans into disarray. Frankly, it’s a big blow to what may have been a major diplomatic achievement. Natural gas is one of the few things Israel and the Palestinians agreed on, and it was almost something Israel was going to agree on with Lebanon.

    Iran is on a mission from G-d to spite the Great and Little Satan.

    This is simply another case of “You may not be interested in War…but War is very much interested in you”

  25. Natural gas is one of the few things Israel and the Palestinians agreed on, and it was almost something Israel was going to agree on with Lebanon.

    I read George Popadopoulis book. He spent quite a bit of time making himself an expert on energy topics and devoted much time to a proposal to route the natural gas pipeline from the new gas fields to Cyprus and Greece, avoiding Turkey. His interviews with Halper and Downer were marked by hostility to the idea of avoiding Turkey. It almost makes me wonder if the original attack on him and attempts to entrap him were concerned more with Turkey and less with Russia.

    I don’t know the details of Flynn’s guilty plea but I understand much concerns lobbying for Turkey,. It sounds like Turkey was very worried about being by passed by that gas pipeline.

  26. that would seem most logical, a circumstance, but the press doesn’t read past their Qatari, or Iranian based press release, btw heshmat had his twitter feed restored,

  27. This is a “Stopped Clocks and NPR moment,” in that NPR actually reported really important and relevant information on the effect of the Trump Administration Oil and Financial system sanctions on the Iranian economy in the middle of attacking the Trump Administration:

    “Well, I actually thought they would do something like that. What they’re trying to do is put more pressure on the international community to entice the United States, you know, to back down. Their strategy is – it’s pretty obvious because crippling sanctions are certainly hurting their economy, which has contracted 6%. Inflation is 37%. Their currency is devalued rather dramatically. Food shortages, power outages and growing civil unrest are the issues they are facing. And as we know now – our intelligence services told us they’ve had to pull back some of the funding for their proxies, which is their main foreign policy instrument that they use to control and influence the Middle East.”

    The BLUF: The Mullah’s have run out of money. And they want a foreign war to distract the Iranian people and as an excuse to cut back funds and foreign commercial goodies to a lot of the regime security forces.

    The Trump Administration — likely clued in by Israeli human intelligence sources inside Iran — is not biting on the provocation.

  28. More has come out on the Iran’s Limpet Mine Tanker Attacks.


    Navy Explosives Expert Shows Off Evidence Of Iranian Involvement In Tanker Attacks
    The press briefing comes amid a spate of rocket attacks in Iraq that have injured at least three oil workers, which may also be tied to Iran.

    U.S. Releases New Evidence Of Iran’s Involvement In Tanker Attacks (Updated)
    The U.S. is building its case against Iran as it works to reach an “international consensus” that the hardline IRGC was behind the operation.

  29. Gavin Longmuir Says:
    June 14th, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Seriously, I am ignoring all the media coverage of this event for now.
    * *
    Good plan.
    These posts are from a retired Navy Intel analyst, J. E. Dyer, who I have found to be consistently reliable and detailed on foreign affairs, especially if the Navy is involved.

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