Tension mounts between Britain and Iran over the 15 British sailors seized on March 23. While many US media outlets dutifully repeat the claims that: 1) the sailors were in Iraqi waters at the time they were taken captive, and 2) the incident came completely out of nowhere, a closer examination of the facts indicates otherwise.
Here’s a quick overview of recent articles providing important context:
1. The map showing the captured sailors were in Iraqi waters is ‘fake’ and ‘has no legal force.’
Craig Murray was the Ambassador to the Central Republic of Uzbekistan from 2002-04 and "helped expose the vicious human rights abuses by the US-funded regime of Islam Karimov."
He also headed Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1989-92. In other words, Murray knows a thing or two about maritime borders.
Here’s an excerpt from Murray’s March 28, 2007 blog entitled "Fake Maritime Boundaries" (www.craigmurray.co.uk):
The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.
But there are two colossal problems.
A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.
B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.
None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden the Iranian position.
2. According to the UK’s Independent, "A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines."
An excerpt from the Independent’s April 3 2007 article entitled "The botched US raid that led to the hostage crisis" (http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2414760.ece):
Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.
In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment.
Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil - and the angry Iranian response to it - should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf…