Mixed Signals on the Red Sea

USS Theodore Roosevelt

The setup is a simple one. There’s an Iranian flotilla heading towards the Red Sea, possibly carrying illicit weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen. We have an aircraft carrier battle group totally coincidentally in the area. The message however is a confused one:

Pentagon sources confirmed to Fox News that the USS Theodore Roosevelt is tracking the Iranian convoy, and also launching F/A-18 Hornets to conduct “manned reconnaissance” of the estimated nine Iranian ships.

Those ships are suspected of carrying weapons to rebel fighters in Yemen.

But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf insisted Tuesday that the U.S. ships were “only” there to “ensure the shipping lanes remain open and safe” — and “not to do anything in terms of those Iranian ships.”

She blasted “misreporting” that asserted U.S. ships were prepared to intercept Iranian vessels.

“That is blatantly untrue — so this discreet movement of U.S. assets is for a discreet purpose,” Harf said.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also said Tuesday that the ships are in the region primarily to “protect the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”

Earnest got this one exactly right — protecting freedom of navigation and commerce is the Navy’s primary mission, and that has always been our official line when talking about situations like this one. And everybody knows exactly what we mean.

Harf meanwhile, with a political IQ in the short-sleeve weather range and no higher, goes blabbing on and on, denying this and trying to define that, and making it look like Amateur Hour at State.

She has zero business discussing this or any other military matter.