Letter to the Speaker of
the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on the
United States Air Strike in the Persian Gulf
October 10, 1987
Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)
nearly forty years, the United States has maintained a
limited naval presence in the Persian Gulf to provide for the
safety of U.S.-flag merchant vessels engaging in peaceful activities in
international waters and for other reasons essential to the national security.
This has been done pursuant to the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief.
Our presence in the Persian Gulf has been fully within our rights under
international law. Our forces have respected all relevant international rules
of conduct, and provided no basis in law for hostile action against them.
approximately 2:50 p.m. (EDT) on October 8, 1987, three helicopters of the U.S.
Middle East Joint Task Force, while on routine nighttime patrol over
international waters of the Persian Gulf, were fired upon without warning by
three (possibly four) small Iranian naval vessels. This unprovoked attack posed
an immediate and direct threat to the safety of the helicopters and their
crewmen. Accordingly, acting in self-defense and pursuant to standing Peacetime
Rules of Engagement for the region, the helicopters returned fire with rockets
and machine guns. Three Iranian vessels were hit, and one of them subsequently
sank. No U.S. personnel were injured
in this brief exchange of fire.
U.S. patrol boats were
dispatched to the scene and recovered six Iranian crewmen from the water.
Although all available medical care was provided, two of the crewmen
subsequently died. The four surviving crewmen currently are aboard the USS
RALEIGH. Two of them are seriously injured, and all are receiving complete
medical evaluation and treatment. When the survivors are capable of being
moved, efforts will be made to repatriate them through a third country with the
assistance of an appropriate humanitarian organization.
approximately (EDT), another
helicopter belonging to the U.S. Middle East Joint Task Force was performing
surveillance operations over international waters of the Persian Gulf in the vicinity of an
oil platform under Iranian control. Although the helicopter observed fire from
an unidentified source, it is not clear that the fire was directed at the U.S. aircraft and U.S. forces did not return
U.S. forces, which sustained
no damage or casualties, have returned to their prior state of alert readiness
in carrying out the standing Peacetime Rules of Engagement for the Persian Gulf region. Although they
will remain prepared to take any additional defensive action necessary to
protect U.S. forces and U.S. lives, there has been
no further hostile action by Iranian forces and we regard this incident as
limited defensive action described above was taken in accordance with our right
of self-defense under 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.
March 1987, I and members of my Administration have provided to Congress
letters, reports, briefings, and testimony in connection with developments in
and activities of U.S. Armed Forces in that region. In accordance with my
desire that Congress continue to be fully informed in this matter, I am
providing this report consistent with the War Powers Resolution. While mindful
of the historical differences between the Legislative and Executive branches of
government, and the positions taken by me and all my predecessors in office,
with respect to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the 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 achievement of that aim.
Note: Identical letters
were sent to Jim Wright, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John C. Stennis, President Pro tempore of the Senate.