Can the Iraqi navy do what the US is doing?

I get the feeling there probably isn’t even an Iraqi navy, but just out of curiousity, if there was a navy, couldn’t the Iraqis start sending freighters out of the gulf, and position them several miles off the American shore? Sounds like a viable action were a nation wanting to match the threat it may feel.

What are the international laws governing the moving and positioning of war vessels?

as i would understand it, as long as the hypothetical iraqi navy stayed in international waters, which would be a few miles off the coast, then they would be completely in their rights. Thats not to say the big-bad US wouldn’t shove political pressure up the wazoo to get them to back off, but technically they could.

I’m sure if they did we’d decimate whatever fleet they have before they could get off a shot though.

Countries at war can attack each other’s ships anywhere on the high seas. Remember all the shipping sunk in WWII? Or more recently, the British attack on the General Belgrano and the Argentinians attacking the Sheffield among others?

If Iraq had ships to move across the ocean, the U.S. would calculate the maximum range from the coastline they could be allowed to approach. They would be met by U.S. ships well before that point and be ordered to stop. If they kept coming, they’d be sunk.

Or, the U.S. might not even bother with that much. Ships start moving out of the Gulf, planes from one of 5 aircraft carriers sink them.

IIRC, Iraq had a navy before Desert Storm that consisted of two boats (Navy’s usually have vessels that they proudly call “ships”) no larger than the PT Boat Kennedy was famous for. One good reason is that they really have little or no coast line to operate from. It is something like Kansas bestowing admiralships to their citizens.

Yeah, didn’t Saddam have to “borrow” a coast line from Kuwait? Do you suppose the boats were manned by members of his “elite Republican Navy?”

The “infamous” Republican Navy, which he holds in reserve in case he has to flee the country. :smiley:

One of the reasons Saddam wanted Kuwait is because it has a very good deep-water port. Saddam fancies himself a leader of a great power, and great powers have navies. Saddam has dreams of a blue-water Navy.

I agree, there may well be some truth to this. Like most megalomaniacs, Saddam enjoys such trappings.

However there is a more practical reason - Iraq has always been at a strategic disadvantage because it does not control access to the Gulf. The Shatt al-Arab waterway is essentially geographically controlled on one end by Iran and on the other by Kuwait, leaving Iraq very vulnerable to interdiction of its oil shipments. Hence both the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War were predicated in part on relieving this stranglehold.

There is also a further issue, which long predates Saddam. From King Faisal ( Iraq’s first monarch ) on, Iraq has laid claim to Kuwait based on the argument that Britain illegally separated it from the Ottoman province of Basra, to which it was supposedly attached ( the truth of the matter is actually rather more complex ). Hence it has been a long-standing ( if occasionally submerged ) feature of Iraqi nationalism, such as it is.

  • Tamerlane

Getting back to the OP, I don’t know what the international laws are. IANAL. I wonder, however, why Saddam or anyone else would post “freighters” just outside our territorial waters.

Is that exactly what you meant? If so, what threat would we be meant to feel?

In case of a war, I don’t think it’d matter much what Saddam sent and parked along the coast. Whatever he sent would disappear violently and quickly.

Freighters with nuclear bombs in their holds.


Well, if you’re moving nuclear weapons in that close, the LAST thing you are worrying about is maritime law :-p You should be more worried about how many megatons of nukes your shelter can take and how many decades worth of food you have :-p

The big problem with America is that it is so f*ing huge, in every way, has relatively limitless resources, and has so many ports. Fully bloockading the United States would take more resources than any country has.

A blockade like that can be considered an act of war.

So basically, as long as they are 12 miles off the coast, not engaged in piracy or slave trade, not breaking broadcast laws, or not displaying a nationality, they can sit there as long as they like.

No, you have to fly a flag. Not displaying nationality is bad.

Well now, nobody said THAT!

For starters, Iraq definitely does not have a Navy, unless you count one boat a Navy. If they did and they sent ships to sit off our coast, then I suppose it’d depend on the level of threat we felt, and if there were open hostilities going on between us. If there were, then the ships would be sunk. If not, and there was no tension between us, and if the ships were inside 12 miles, they’d probably be intercepted and escorted out of our territorial waters. If there was tension but no hostilities, they’d probably be targeted either by our surface ships or our subs and closely monitored.

Keep in mind that a country may claim waters out beyond 12 miles. This doesn’t mean other countries recognize it, though. They may claim it as territorial or economic exclusion zones, etc. And some of this involves international perception as to what’s right and what’s not. Look at China when it downed our EP-3, which was well out of their airspace. IIRC, they claimed it was in their airspace (economic exclusion zone or something silly) and so they were within their rights to do what they did. And they did a pretty good job of acting the victim.

Anyway, as TBone asked, what would the goal of such an action by Iraq be?