Sept. 19, 2011 -- Harkening back to the days of the Soviet Union, some U.S. officials are reportedly considering establishing an emergency "hotline" between the U.S. and Iran, but one senior defense official told ABC News those kinds of discussions are, at this point, premature.
The Wall Street Journal reported today several U.S. officials were weighing the establishment of a direct line between the U.S. and Iranian militaries after a series of "near-miss" encounters between the two in the Persian Gulf that could have potentially led to a broader conflict.
"There may or may not be advocates for establishing a naval hotline at some point," the senior U.S. defense official told ABC News, "but discussion of it is very premature. There are no proposals for opening up such a channel currently in front of either the Secretary of Defense or the President."
The Journal reported U.S. officials are particularly worried about run-ins with high-performance speed boats sometimes equipped with missiles and possibly operated by Iran's elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"We continue to be concerned about Iran's destabilizing activities and ambitions, and we remain firmly committed to protecting our personnel, our interests, and our partners in the region," Department of Defense spokesperson George Little told reporters. "We have consistently conveyed to Iran that it must halt its destabilizing behavior and avoid any provocations in the Gulf, Iraq, or elsewhere."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in New York this week for his address to the United Nations General Assembly.
The use of direct "hotlines" between the U.S. and rival nations was first made famous just less than half a century ago when President Kennedy established a link between Washington, D.C., and Moscow, Russia, in 1963 following the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The direct link, known as the "red phone", is meant to "help reduce the risk of war occurring by accident or miscalculation," the White House said in a statement on Aug. 30, 1963. President Lyndon Johnson was the first president to use the hotline during the 1967 Six Day War in the Middle East.
In 2007, the militaries of the U.S. and China agreed to open their own defense hotline.
President Obama joked in June 2010 that now that both he and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev are both on Twitter "we may now be able to finally get rid of those old 'red phones'."