CNN: "Significant" confrontation between U.S. and Iranian navies in Persian Gulf; Update: "[A] heartbeat away from being blown up"

“Significant” being a relative term: No shots were actually fired, although they were right on the brink. Telling a U.S. Navy ship “You will explode in a couple of minutes” usually isn’t a good idea.

What’s bizarre about it is that it’s hard to believe it was accidental — but it’s also so small-scale that it’s hard to believe it was fully intentional. If Iran wanted to provoke America, this seems like an awfully penny-ante way of doing it. On the other hand, if the military’s right in thinking these were Revolutionary Guard boats, then surely they knew the consequences of attacking American ships. Any theories? Just an exercise in “feeling out” the U.S. response to a provocation? Maybe they mistakenly thought the American ships were in Iranian waters (the excuse given when the British sailors were captured)?

Exit question: Which nutroots blog will be the first to scream “Gulf of Tonkin!”?

Update: There’s no doubt who would have won this skirmish — the Navy ships were a destroyer, a frigate, and a cruiser. But between assurances that the Iranians were a “heartbeat from being blown,” ABC’s Pentagon sources ask a good question — how was it that an Iranian ship ostensibly packed with explosives was able to get as close as 200 yards?

Needless to say, the fact that they were that close destroys the Iranian excuse that the ships didn’t recognize each other.

Update: Iran spins: “That is something normal that takes place every now and then for each party, and it (the problem) is settled after identification of the two parties.”