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Iran Says U.S. Risking ‘Another Vietnam’ with Attack With AM-Gulf Rdp Bjt

October 9, 1987

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Iran said Friday that the United States is risking ″another Vietnam″ by attacking Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf and said that all foreign navies should leave.

Tehran Radio, monitored in Nicosia, said Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati made the statement in a strongly worded protest to the United Nations after U.S. helicopters attacked Iranian speedboats in the northern gulf Thursday night.

Iran said it shot down one helicopter and damaged a U.S. warship in the combat, which killed two Iranians. The Pentagon denied any losses. The United States says the Iranians fired first.

Velayati said in his message to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar that the United States bears ″responsibility for the start of an all- out war and the very dangerous consequences of the violation of international laws.″

″The intensification of America’s policies of baring its teeth and claws in the Persian Gulf region clearly shows that the region is on the verge of turning into another Vietnam and that this military aggression will ultimately drag the whole region into flames and the war will go on for years.

″The only way to prevent the expansion of tension is the immediate withdrawal of forces belonging to foreign countries from the waters of the Persian Gulf,″ Velayati said.

It was the second lethal confrontation between the United States and Iran in three weeks that left the Iranians overwhelmed by American firepower.

The U.S. Navy began a major naval buildup in the region in July to escort Kuwaiti tankers, reflagged with the Stars and Stripes, to protect them from Iranian attack.

Iran, at war with Iraq since September 1980, charges Kuwait aids Iraq’s war effort. Both sides have attacked foreign merchant ships in their tanker war

Iran denied the U.S. contention that the speedboats fired on the U.S. helicopters first, according to an unidentified spokesman for Tehran’s War Information Headquarters.

He was quoted by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, also monitored in Cyprus.

The spokesman called the attack ″an open military action″ by the United States and said the Americans were now openly supporting Iraq.

IRNA also said: ″Iranian forces aboard speedboats shot down a U.S. helicopter with surface-to-air Stinger missiles and damaged an American vessel immediately after U.S. helicopter gunships attacked five speedboats in the international waters of the Persian Gulf.″

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris Baumann said, ″We have no warships damaged and we have no helicopters missing.″

IRNA said three of the boats hit Thursday were sunk. U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger later said one boat sank and the other two were disabled but still afloat.

IRNA said each boat had a four-man crew from the Revolutionary Guards and that six of men were ″taken hostage″ by the U.S. Navy after the ″savage attack.″

U.S. officials said six Iranians were picked up and two of them later died of wounds. The Iranian report said six missing men also were killed or drowned.

IRNA quoted the military spokesman as warning the people of the United States that President Reagan’s ″unwise and provocative policies will eventually involve them in an unwanted war.″

The agency quoted the spokesman as urging Americans to ″pressure the U.S. administration to stop these provocative acts before it is too late ... otherwise American troops will not return home on their own feet.″

On Sept. 21, U.S. helicopters hit what the Pentagon identified as an Iranian minelayer. Five Iranian crewmen were killed.

Diplomats and analysts said the attack bolstered the demands of hardliners in the Tehran government’s hierarchy for tough, retaliatory action against the United States and its allies in the gulf.

Arab diplomats also voiced fears that the growing polarization between Iran and its Arab neighbors in the gulf heralded attacks on Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, and Kuwait.

Iran has in recent weeks singled out Saudi tankers and other ships trading with the kingdom for attack by Revolutionary Guards in armed speedboats.

The diplomats and analysists spoke on condition of not being identified.

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