Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Navigationally Challenged Mullahs

The UK Times is reporting that, over the weekend, Iran, provided "proof" to the British governement that the abduction of 15 of the U.K.'s sailors and marines occurred in Iranian waters by providing GPS data. The only problem - the coordinates placed the sailors and marines squarely in Iraqi waters. When the Brits pointed out this error and demanded the return of their sailors and marines, what they received intstead was a different set of GPS coordinates from the mad mullahs.

In response, the UK has released GPS data that shows the boarding party of 15 sailors and marines were 1.7 miles inside of Iraqi waters when they were abducted by the Iranians. See here. Their location was verified by the captain of the vessel the Brits were inspecting at the time of the abduction.

This will add clarity to the Britain's call for the return of their soldiers, though, in reality, the location of the abduction, either in or out of Iraqi waters, is really a red herring. See here. There is no legal justification for the Iranian action - it is Iran's rouge theocracy acting as it always has.

In addition to the GPS data, Britain outlined its course of action in dealing with the Iranians, and Tony Blair answered questions about the Rules of Engagement (ROE).

[T]he Prime Minister and . . . Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, . . . told MPs that Britain was immediately freezing all bilateral ties with Iran - except for contacts directly concerning the seized personnel.

"They should not be under any doubt at all about how seriously we regard this act, which is unjustified and wrong," Mrs Beckett said.

. . . Minutes after the MoD press conference, the Prime Minister told the Commons that Britain was mobilising international support to show Iran how isolated it was. Mr Blair described the seizure as “completely unacceptable, wrong and illegal”.

Responding to a question from David Cameron, the Conservative leader, about the rules of engagement the patrols were operating under, Mr Blair said that the sailors and Marines could have used force in self defence. But he was was quite satisfied that they had taken the right decision in not drawing their arms after being surrounded by six heavily armed Iranian Republic Guard vessels.

"If they had engaged in military combat at the stage, there would undoubtedly have been severe loss of life," he said.

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.

As much as I like Tony Blair, I think this blithely passing over the ROE and acts of the Commander of the HMS Cornwall are very much in the wrong. See here.

This Iranian provocation is an act of war. For one, Tony Blair should clearly announce what steps he will take for force protection in the future -- i.e., that all boarding parties will operate within the support range of the fleet, and that future provocations will be met by overwhelming force. And two, while Tony Blair is taking the proper diplomatic steps, he should get the UN involved immediately, as this was a UN mandated mission the sailors and marines were undertaking. And last, diplomacy may not win out - and If this travesty is allowed to play out long, it will only further embolden the mad mullahs who already believe that, with the West, they are fighting a eunuch unable to defend itself. At some point, an ultimatum needs to be issued, backed up with all of the firepower that the UK and its ally, the US can provide in the Gulf. See here.

Update: The NYT is reporting (see here) that the Iranians have posted videos of the captured sailors and marines, including a video of the female sailor captured, now with her hair covered in Iranian style, praising her Iranian captors for their treatment and "admitting" that the sailors and marines were in Iranian waters when kidnapped. Further, the mullahs are now demanding that Britain officially "admit" that their sailors and marines were in Iranian waters.

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