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Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on the United States Military Strike in the Persian Gulf

April 19, 1988

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

On April 14, 1988, the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS struck a mine in international waters of the Persian Gulf. Lookouts on the ROBERTS had spotted three mines lying perpendicular to the ship's course and about 700 yards away. The ROBERTS struck a mine set deeper than the others and not visible from the ship. Ten servicemen were injured. The detonation caused a nine-foot hole in the ship's hull near the main engine room, below the water line; a split in the ship's bulkhead between the main engine room and an auxiliary machinery room; and a fire. The ROBERTS is now safely in a repair facility.

An examination of the mines remaining in the water established that they were M08 mines, the same type Iran was caught placing in the water from the IRAN AJR on September 21, 1987. They had been freshly laid in an area transited by U.S. convoys. No barnacles or marine growth were on the mines. Most important, the mines bore markings of the same type and series as on those laid by the IRAN AJB. No doubt exists that Iran laid these mines for the specific purpose of damaging or sinking U.S. or other non-belligerent ships. We have warned Iran repeatedly against such hostile acts.

In response to this attack on the ROBERTS and commencing at approximately 1:00 a.m. (EDT), April 18, 1988, Armed Forces of the United States assigned to the Joint Task Force Middle East, after warning Iranian personnel and providing an opportunity to escape, attacked and effectively neutralized the Sassan and Sirri Platforms, which have been used to support unlawful Iranian attacks on non-belligerent shipping. While these events were taking place, an Iranian helicopter and small boats attacked an oil rig and the U.S.-flag vessel WILLI TIDE in the Mubarak oil field. In response, U.S. A-6 aircraft attacked three Iranian Boghammar small boats, sinking at least one.

Subsequently, U.S. Forces were attacked by the Iranian PTG JOSHAN, FFG SAHAND, and FFG SABALAN. In response to these attacks, U.S. Forces severely damaged or sank the Iranian vessels. Iranian F—4 fighters also approached the USS SIMPSON and the USS WAINWRIGHT in a threatening manner; the SIMPSON and WAINWRIGHT fired at the aircraft, causing their retreat.

Search and rescue efforts were undertaken to locate a missing AH-1 Cobra helicopter from the WAINWRIGHT. The helicopter had two men on beard. As of 7:00 a.m. (EDT) today, the search and rescue efforts were continuing.

These necessary and proportionate actions by U.S. Armed Forces were taken at my specific direction in the exercise of our inherent right of self-defense, recognized in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and pursuant to my constitutional authority with respect to the conduct of foreign relations and as Commander in Chief. We have completed these serf-defense actions and consider the matter closed. Since March 1987, I and members of my Administration have provided to Congress letters, reports, briefings, and testimony in connection with developments in the Persian Gulf and the activities of U.S. Armed Forces in the region. In accordance with my desire that Congress be kept fully informed on this matter, I am providing this report consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I look forward to cooperating with Congress in pursuit of our mutual, overriding aim of peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region. In this connection, I regard the continued presence of U.S. Armed Forces to be essential to the achievement of that aim. Our Forces remain prepared to take any additional action necessary to protect themselves, U.S.-flag vessels, and U.S. lives. Sincerely,


Note: Identical letters were sent to Jim Wright, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John C. Stennis, President pro tempore of the Senate.

Ronald Reagan, Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on the United States Military Strike in the Persian Gulf Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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