Saturday, 31 March 2007

Tension growing between Britain and Iran?

The British sailors and marines held captive were shown on Iran television. The British Government condemned this as “the sailors being paraded on television”. The Iranians said the tape, showing the prisoners eating, was released to reassure their families that they are being well looked after.

I want to see a jingoistic free account and analyses of events. But once again the British press appear to be acting as the willing tool of Government propaganda. They shout “Is the Government doing enough to free our troops? “.

I am yet to see a forensic examination of the facts as stated by Britain and Iran. What do we know?

The Ministry of Defence says:
  • At 07:39 hrs on 23 March 2007 a merchant ship located 1.7 nautical miles (3.1km) inside Iraqi territorial waters was boarded by crew from HMS Cornwall. The operation was observed by Cornwall’s Lynx helicopter.
  • Communication with the boarding party was lost at 09:10
  • The Lynx returned to the scene and reported the two boats were being escorted by Iranian Navy vessels toward the Shatt al Arab waterway
  • The British state the Iranians first claimed the incident occurred at a location within Iraq waters, but corrected this to a position 1 nautical mile (1.9km) from its first position and within Iranian waters.

While the British Government is ignoring the fact, it must be noted while reference is made to distances from the boarder; agreement has never been reached between Iran and Iraq on the position of the boarder. Making definitive statements and basing a case on a location 1.7 nautical miles from a disputed and undefined boarder doesn’t stand-up to close scrutiny. A fact identified by Russia at the UN Security Council discussions on Thursday.

From known facts, it is obvious the boarding of the merchant vessel was ineptly planned and executed:
  • Why didn’t HMS Cornwall see the approach of the Iranian boats on its radar?
  • Why did the Lynx helicopter have insufficient fuel to remain on patrol? (The Lynx had returned to Cornwall for refuelling, at the time the Iranians captured the sailors).
  • Why was there a failure in the communication system between Cornwall and the two patrol boats?

In an attempt to get an alternative prospective, yesterday I looked at the following Middle East news organisations:

Bahrain Tribune - no reference to the story
The Daily Star (Lebanon) - ditto

Middle East Times (Egypt) - a report that Iran says Britain exploited UN; and second sailor ‘confesses’.

Gulf News Online (UAE) - nothing in the headlines, but at the bottom of the page a link to an Iranian statement why the release of the woman captive has been put off

Arab News (The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily) (Saudi Arabia) - At the end of a long report of a news conference given at the end of the Arab Summit at Riyadh, quote:

Asked about the Kingdom’s stance on the 15 British soldiers who are withheld with Iranian officials, Prince Saudi described it as “unfortunate.”
“We do not need any things to add to the already inflammatory situation in the region,” he said. He said he extended his heart out to the families of the captured British sailors

Islamic Republic News Agency (Iran) - reported on a telephone conversation between President Mahout Ahmadinejad and the Turkish Prime Minister, quote:
During the telephone conversation, Ahmadinejad underlined that the British troopers have for many times in the past violated international rules and conventions and illegally crossed into Iranian borders.
Despite their official commitment to avoid repetition of such illegal crossing into Iranian land and territorial water, the Britons have resorted to fabricated hue and cry instead of apology for their action and of helping resolve the issue through diplomatic channels, he said.
The Turkish premier, for his part, called Britain's threats for freezing ties with Iran as a "mistake" and urged the Iranian officials to permit Turkish ambassador to Tehran to meet the captured British sailors in an effort to foil the ongoing false propaganda.

In a separate report on the telephone conversation between the Iranian and Australian Foreign Ministers to discuss the arrest of the British sailors, quote:

The Iranian foreign minister hoped that the British officials will avoid the hue and cries launched by the media, which will make the issue more complicated.
"Iran welcomes pursuance of the issue by Australia if it can help Britain to act reasonably," he added.

Clearly in the Middle East the affair is seen as a low priority event. Even in Iran they are trying to cool the situation. Perhaps its time for the British to keep “Macho man” Blair off the TV and apply some quiet diplomacy. As for the British press, as can be seen from today’s copy of the Sun, it’s starting to lose interest.


Shrink wrapped scream said...

I am so glad to find another loud (and more elequent) voice than mine, who is outraged enough to have the temerity to question the sanitised version of what the hell is going on in Iraq/Iran.. good on you, chuck - couldn't agree more!

YesBut said...

Hi Carol
One day we will be told the truth. But by that time hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis will have died and a country destroyed. In the mean time Blair & Bush will be living in blissful retirement.

Daughter of a RN sailor said...

Watery borders are never precise, which is why there is a 5 mile "give and take" zone around each one. So even if we were a mile or two over the border, our personnel shouldn't have been taken. We were operating in the region under a UN mandate i.e. checking ships were carrying only the cargo they declared, and not taking weapons to Iraq to support the "insurgents". The most Iraq should have done is tell us that they believe we're in their territory and tell us to move.

They should release the personnel now. They think we trespassed on their side of the border, point taken, now hand them back. The accusations of spying are ridiculous. They knew about the UN mandate. We, and others, have operated in that stretch of water for years.

As for Bush and Blair. Oh dear God....
When Bush got up on TV yesterday and started asking for the 'British Hostages' back (We never called them that!) I thought, that's right, make it worse why don't you.
The pair of them need their heads knocked together. But then Blair has always fancied himself as a president, not a PM. So not surprising that he enjoys all the macho posturing.

I heard a report the other day that the USA was sending another ship into the region, one with 'nuclear capabilities'. But I've heard nothing since-????
Time to kiss our butts goodbye. (no wonder he isn't worried about climate change. We aint gonna be here much longer...)

YesBut said...

Hi daughter of an rn sailor.
Do you blog?
If so please leave your URL, because I really like your opinions and style.

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