Tuesday, March 27, 2007

British Rules Of Engagement Allowed For Capture by Iranians

I wrote here that I could not understand how a British naval force would allow its sailors and marines to be kidnapped by Iranians for a second time without firing a shot. It turns out that the British Rules of Engagement prevents their fleet from effectively defending themselves against the Iranians, even in response to such an incredibly provocative act as occurred with the kidnapping of the fifteen sailors and marines.

A senior American commander in the Gulf has said his men would have fired on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard rather than let themselves be taken hostage.

In a dramatic illustration of the different postures adopted by British and US forces working together in Iraq, Lt-Cdr Erik Horner - who has been working alongside the task force to which the 15 captured Britons belonged - said he was "surprised" the British marines and sailors had not been more aggressive.

Asked by The Independent whether the men under his command would have fired on the Iranians, he said: "Agreed. Yes. I don't want to second-guess the British after the fact but our rules of engagement allow a little more latitude. Our boarding team's training is a little bit more towards self-preservation."

The executive officer - second-in-command on USS Underwood, the frigate working in the British-controlled task force with HMS Cornwall - said: " The unique US Navy rules of engagement say we not only have a right to self-defence but also an obligation to self-defence. They [the British] had every right in my mind and every justification to defend themselves rather than allow themselves to be taken. Our reaction was, 'Why didn't your guys defend themselves?'"

His comments came as it was reported British intelligence had been warned by the CIA that Iran would seek revenge for the detention of five suspected Iranian intelligence officers in Iraq two months ago but refused to raise threat levels in line with their US counterparts. The capture of the eight sailors and seven marines - including one young mother - will undoubtedly renew accusations that Britain's determination to maintain a friendly face in the region has left its troops frequently under protected.

. . . Yesterday, the former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West, said British rules of engagement were "very much de-escalatory, because we don't want wars starting ... Rather than roaring into action and sinking everything in sight we try to step back and that, of course, is why our chaps were, in effect, able to be captured and taken away."

Read the entire article here. I think it self evident that the best way to insure a belicose enemy acts ever more reckless is not to defend one's self when reasonably provoked. That is craven insanity.

This kidnapping occrured in almost the exact same place as the kidnapping of sailors two years ago. And in this instance, the British commanders allowed their boarding party of sailors and marines to conduct operations outside of the HMS Cornwall's ability to support it if, as happened, the Iranians made another kidnapping attempt.

The failures here are multiple. One, the rules of engagement for British forces are directly responsible for allowing this kidnapping to occur - and responsiblity for that starts with Tony Blair. And two, in light of the known threat, the commander of the Cornwall , in allowing his boarding party to operate outside of a range in which the commander could timely reinforce or support by fire - or even just by a bluff - is guilty of dereliction of duty.

There can be no aspersions cast on the bravery of the individual sailors and marines. In light of the ROE, and with no expectation of support, they really had no other choice then to go belly up without a shot fired. Were this the U.S. navy, I can assure you there would be at least one admiral's head on a pike by now. Let us hope that this leads to a revision of how Her Majesty's Navy does business in the Persian Gulf.

There is no need to provoke the Iranians, but there has to be an absolute line in the sand that the Iranians cannot pass without bloodshed. That line must clearly be drawn at the point of protecting from death or capture those who have volunteered to serve their country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

American ROE isn't that far off, either. This should be a lesson to the Brits that aggression vs aggression is the ONLY answer.


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