The London Times reports that the U.K. is “hitting back” over Iran’s seizure of 15 British sailors and marines:
Britain moved to ratchet up the pressure on Iran today over what Tony Blair called its “illegal” seizure of 15 Royal Navy personnel in the Gulf last Friday, freezing all ties with Tehran until the crisis is resolved and the group released.
After five days of discreet but fruitless diplomacy, the offensive began with a press conference at the MoD at which Vice-Admiral Charles Style published satellite coordinates proving that seven Royal Marines and eight sailors were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when they were “ambushed”.
“Freezing all ties” means that Britain has stopped talking to Iran about anything other than the hostage situation. Call me cynical, but I doubt whether that greatly “ratchets up the pressure” on the mullahs. It’s nice, too, that British authorities can prove that their vessel was really in Iraqi waters when it was seized, but it seems clear that the Iranians knew that all along, so I don’t think the proof will impress them much. Note that Iran initially released coordinates where the encounter allegedly took place, but it turned out that the place was in Iraqi waters. So the Iranians just released a new set of coordinates that moved the location two miles to the north. I don’t think that what we have here is a legitimate geographic misunderstanding.
This graphic, released by the British government, conveys a good sense of the relevant geography; click to enlarge:
As more facts come out, some will no doubt question whether the British reaction to the kidnapping-in-progress was too weak. Yesterday, Tony Blair said that he agreed with the sailors’ decision to surrender rather than put up a fight, since “severe loss of life” would otherwise have resulted. At that moment, the British boat was badly outgunned. Of course, the boat was dispatched by HMS Cornwall, which was nearby. Here is how the Times describes that ship’s role:
Mr Blair added by the time the crew of HMS Cornwall realised that the 15 had been detained and a Lynx helicopter dispatched to find them, they were already in Iranian waters – making intervention that much more dangerous.
One wonders whether pursuing the Iranian boats into Iranian waters might have brought about a speedier end to the crisis.
One more thing: these uniformed British servicemen (and woman), unlike captured terrorists, are entitled to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, which Iran has signed. Pretty much every aspect of their treatment has violated the Convention: a video showing them in captivity has been filmed and played on television, they have been “interrogated,” in Iran’s own description, and are now being held incommunicado in an undisclosed location. Has anyone noticed any outcry from the “world community” about this? Does the Geneva Convention apply to anyone other than the U.S.?
Finally, Sam Ryskind puts the current crisis in the context of Iran’s other provocations; click to enlarge:
CORRECTION: Mark Steyn, stranded at O’Hare Airport, wrote to point out that “the HMS Cornwall” is wrong. Good point; I’ve made the correction.
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