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back to article Were the snatched Brit sailors in 'disputed waters'?

Last week, the Times obtained an MoD document relating to the Iran sailors seizure fracas last year. It was heavily redacted, but there was a paragraph left which referred to the well-known fact that part of the maritime boundary between Iraqi and Iranian waters has never been agreed by Iran. The Times ran this under the …

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Hmmm

So we were there as part of an illegal war, at a point after the yanks had illegally kidnapped Iraqi soldiers and then the Iraqi's probably acted illegally.

We're not really on the moral high ground here are we?

We also got caught abusing Iranians and aiding in torture carried out by the yanks.

The conduct of the Navy personnel after their release wasn't too great either. I also hope I might have conducted myself better during captivity, but hopefully I'll never have to find out.

There's also been lots of commentary about the public's "contract" with the armed forces. While I'm inclined to respect those who are willing to defend our country it's hard to do so when they're sent to fight against the will of the majority of the country and, well you see my point.

It's also hard if you live near an army camp and see the fights in bars and drunkenness. I know, it's a minority, but it doesn't look good.

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Anonymous Coward

Doing the job.

"...They blatantly invaded Iraqi territory so as to kidnap some hostages...It was an illegal opportunistic raid, pure and simple..."

Isn't the job of the armed forces to stop other states doing this sort of thing? It's all very complicated. but certainly the RN's procurement decisions need reassessing. I'd like to see the Navy get enough money for a semi-decent power projection capacity as well as some sort of coastal operation support capability, but money is too tight to mention...

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IT Angle

All very interesting but...

...whatever the circumstances, why would armed and supported British service personnel cave in so pathetically and immediately? The Revolutionary Guard were given all the justification they needed by the seemingly guilty behaviour of the Brits. The whole incident was ridiculous.

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Pirate

Uninformed comment: clear error.

First, I would like to point out that I am not well informed, so excuse my errors.

As everyone knows, we (and by we, I mean US and associated bullies) are strongarming Iraq and the sorrounding countries, specially Iran. The idea behind this is that we have tried to negotiate with them for years, so the only language they understad is that of the force (not the "Force", but "force": bombs).

So it seems reasonable to put british armed men 2km away from a daily menaced country, that sees that their "diplomats" are snatched in Iraq by the US and UK.

But if we follow this reasoning, it would also seem reasonable to think that they will reply with this with the only language they Know:brute force.

Umm... ¿snatching brits? And why where they there? My guess: that was no "usual" merchant ship, but a surveillance ship.. and a good target for Iran.

The clear victims are the soldiers that were sent to sutch a dangerous mission without support.. for me it is clear that they had to have some kind of support..

It is also possible that their mission was to destroy and throw overboard critical equipment, so they didn't were there to fight, but to prevent some equipment to fall on Iranian hands. I suppose that they were succesful in doing that, as they didn't had to fight.

Pirate flag, as this was an act of piracy.

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DM
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Not only...

...an excellent article and a shameless plug to boot!

I'm off to order a book I heard about somewhere...

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Great article, Lewis

Wish there was more of this quality on El Reg instead of cheap flamebait. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is another demonstration, I suppose, of why journalists should not be allowed to write about things with which they don't have at least a passing acquaintance... Actually, this reminds me how underwhelming the governmental outrage on this issue was. Bizarre episode all round, really.

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A very opportune moment

To remember the USS Liberty.

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Pirate

Sanguine

I'd venture to suggest that rather than "I wouldn't have been hugely sanguine about that" You would have been exactly the opposite and in a state of extreme exsanguation.

(For the standard British educated persons, exsanguation means bleeding heavily while sanguine means imbued with / full of blood (resulting in cheeriness - c.f. humors))

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Good Article

Good article, well written and thought out. I agree with everything you say. I also think that whoever decided to send those forces out with no cover should be made an example of and lessons should be learnt.

However, what I think should happen and what does happen are two different things.

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Well Done Lewis

Thank you Mr. Page for reminding us what Journalism is supposed to look like. Overall probably the best reporting I've ever read.

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Didn't this happen to the Aussies as well?

I'm sure I read somewhere that Iran tried the same thing with an Australian boat, and were told by the aussies, in no uncertain terms, to F@!K OFF!.

Which they did.

Can anyone confirm this?

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Ian

@ Matt

What the fuck are you on about?

"So we were there as part of an illegal war, at a point after the yanks had illegally kidnapped Iraqi soldiers and then the Iraqi's probably acted illegally."

What Iraqi soldiers have we kidnapped? I can only guess you're referring to the arrests of Iranian diplomats/spies depending on who you believe.

"We're not really on the moral high ground here are we?"

Yes, because we don't hang people for being gay, jail, beat and torture women for being raped and arrest people for getting a haircut.

"We also got caught abusing Iranians and aiding in torture carried out by the yanks."

Are you from a parallel universe? We've never abused any Iranians. A few yanks were guilty of torture but please be aware that they were arrested and dealt with whilst torture of civilians is accepted and occurs on a daily basis in Iran for "crimes" as small as looking at porn.

"The conduct of the Navy personnel after their release wasn't too great either. I also hope I might have conducted myself better during captivity, but hopefully I'll never have to find out."

At least one of your paragraphs made sense.

"There's also been lots of commentary about the public's "contract" with the armed forces. While I'm inclined to respect those who are willing to defend our country it's hard to do so when they're sent to fight against the will of the majority of the country and, well you see my point."

No not really, they're doing their job it's not their fault no matter how you cut it. Are you expecting them to all quit/get fired for disobeying orders and become unemployed? Are you saying you'd be happy to risk being unemployed by not doing something at work just because of a few vocal "peace" protesters?

"It's also hard if you live near an army camp and see the fights in bars and drunkenness. I know, it's a minority, but it doesn't look good."

As opposed to say, going into the centre of any town on a Friday/Saturday night and seeing civilian mechanics/office workers/bar workers/<insert any other profession here> getting in to fights?

You don't even seem to understand the difference between Iran and Iraq judging by the multiple occasions in a single post you confused them so why would you even bother commenting? You seem like a typical non-factor who feels his voice needs to be heard despite this voice having no knowledge of the subject whatsoever.

You're a prime example of the problem armed forces face here at home in the UK nowadays, members of the general public who don't understand global politics combined with the importance of the military and the respect they deserve and yet still feel the need to defend over your own military a foreign nation with a history of threats to destroy other countries, that treats it's own people in a horrific manner if they don't conform and that actively supports and encourages terrorism through groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Iraqi insurgents.

I'm not supporting the war in Iraq and I often disagree with The Register stories but I have to say Lewis has done a good job here, it was an interesting and well thought out article. The fact is our military are over there and are doing the best they can out of a bad job, they deserve our support through and through.

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Anonymous Coward

OK,

the Iranians were in the wrong. "It was an illegal opportunistic raid, pure and simple." Funny how I would apply the same description to the "liberation" of Iraq. After all like Robert Fisk has written many times, if the main export of Iraq was asparagus we wouldn't be there... and the RN clown wouldn't get kidnapped! How cool is that?

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Great, indeed

I have a dream, each journalist would check facts for hours before writting anything, as has been done, here.

Really good article, enjoyed every part of it ...

Thanks.

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Black Helicopters

Tomorrow never dies

... British sailors in disputed GPS position, heightened tension between UK and foreign (with nuclear aspirations) power, lots and lots of TV, newspaper magazine coverage .... can't anyone spot a James Bond plot when they see one? Where was 007 when we needed him?

Anyway, the plot didn't work out as "Iranians nicked my Ipod and called me names" didn't generate a patriotic demand in for retaliation in the same way as "british sailors murdered by the chinese" did.

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Rob
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Alert

Bravo....

..El Reg, can always rely on you to get the technical facts right, been screaming them at the TV and newspapers fro ages on this one.

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@Matt

Don't think you're qualified to comment until you can actually get the iraqi and iranians the right way round...

EPIC FAIL

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Pirate

You'll never take me alive

"The initial posture of the Iranian personnel was friendly and the IRGCN Captain shook hands with OCRM and told him he was in Iranian waters, which OCRM refuted. The Iranians then adopted an aggressive stance, bringing their weapons to bear and physically blocking in the RHIBs. Due to the speed of change in posture and the overwhelming firepower available to the IRGCN, the boarding team took the decision to lower their own weapons in order to try and de-escalate the situation."

This might have ended differently if the Revolutionary Guard had brought their weapons to bear on the British personnel when they were aboard their RHIBs, rather than aboard the MV HANIN. I bow to your superior knowledge in these matters, but isn't boarding a merchant vessel in Iranian territorial waters (as they claimed) an act of piracy, or aggression, or both?

However, the next paragraph makes the blood boil:

"The RHIBs were then piloted by IRGCN personnel back into Iranian TTWs where they were joined by several other IRGCN vessels containing flag-waving IRGCN personnel including a cameraman who videoed the events."

Not only did the Iranians capture our personnel, but they took our inflatables as prizes. This the appropriate moment to start waving a cutlass around, before scuttling the boat and going straight to Davy Jones' Locker. As attributed to Ned Teach:

"Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you!"

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@Ian

Well said

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Silver badge

The problem.

Forget the morality of the war for a moment (since when was war ever moral anyway?). It's not the number of ships, or their position (though we should probably follow the American line and have the damn destroyer in a close support role rather than nearly 30 miles away) but the fact that RN training for boarding ships is apparently up the duff.

Lets put it this way. In any sort of situation where you hold the tactical high-ground and are approached by an apparently hostile enemy, do you:

a) stay where you are, call for support and get ready to shoot?

b) climb down and drive toward the bad guys?

If you answered B you're probably one of the members of that boarding party. They had the tactical high-ground - they were on-board a ship giving them an immensely superior field of fire and *cover*. They could have sat there, called in the marines (as it were) and simply shot at the Iranians if they made any threatening moves. Instead, the duffers got off the tactical high-ground and into their boats, and went for a fishing trip or something.

that used to be standard naval doctrine when boarding a boat. Apparently this lot were too busy listening to their iPods during that part of the training lectures...

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Great Article

Really enjoyed that - as pointed out already, well researched/written. Cheers

I'm a different Matt to the former poster.

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Anonymous Coward

So why did he anchor there?

IMHO the civilian GPS was spoofed at that location, the UK military encrypted GPS location was correct, the ship would have had civilian GPS and the Iranians likewise.

The fact the ship was anchored in a location it would have grounded on at low tide also suggest this to me.

So assume the GPS was faked to make the Iranians think they're further north than they are, the ship would have the same signal and think it is in the channel, which explains why they anchored in a place that would run aground at low tide. They thought they were further north I reckon.

GPS is trivial to spoof and there's motive means and opportunity in creating this incident by USA and Israel, either of which can fake that signal.

War drums were silenced by Internet discussion, war averted, sailors returned. IMHO, we, Europe should treat Iran like the reliable business partner it is. It is a solid stable supplier of crude oil and we have no reason to be manipulated into that 'axis of evil' crap.

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Good work there, Mr Page

A good article with a welcome use of facts rather than inference and assumption. Hopwever the response of some here I find a bit worrying.

The politics of the Iraq siutation seem to sometimes swamp the fact, to the point where some believe that opposing the war means opposing all actions of the US, Britain and their allies and applauding or excusing all actions of anyone who opposes them. The moral high ground may be a wonderful place to stand while pointing out the errors made in 2003 and apportioning blame, but I can't see what that does for the people of Iraq, who I do like to feel we surely have responsibility towards regardless of your views on the rights and wrongs of the original intervention.

I did note at the time that the Guards wouldn't be so keen on snatching some Americans as they might have been some rather more immediate consequences for them, but they correctly guessed that the British were a softer target. I'm sure they couldn't have believed their luck in the incompetence of the navy in the planning of their mission, their response to the kidnap and the behaviour of some of the marines involved.

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@Broadsheets

Come on guys, appoint a proper defence correspondent, rather than propaganda, misinformation spouting numpties *cough* *coughlin* *cough*.

Cracking article.

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Paris Hilton

"reliable business partner"

Could you just make that "reliable business partner run by a messianic holocaust denier who fancies getting hold of a nuke or two......"?

Paris, for the brain power deployed above

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Badly researched

Cant help feel that too much 'opinion' as usual gets in the way of a register story.

If you bothered to research you will have noticed that it was either Newnight or Channel 4 news that ran a story.

It stated that whist US/UK/Iraq had drawn a territorial line in the disputed waters it seems noone had bothered tell Iran!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So both sides were right but US/UKIraq were certainly incompetant.

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Anonymous Coward

@"reliable business partner"

"reliable business partner run by a messianic holocaust denier who fancies getting hold of a nuke or two......"?

Yes that's them, well at least that's the Israeli jaundice description of Iran. But then we're big boys and can make up our own mind sans MEMRI, AIPAC and Labour Friends of Israel propagandists.

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Good, but subtly biased.

"It was an illegal opportunistic raid, pure and simple."

Yeah, and we're there to spread democracy. The idea of complaining that the Iranians illegaly captured these people is just fucking ridiculous when you take in to account the fact that those British personnel ILLEGALY invaded Iraqi territory.

You're also taking the piss when you talk about the credibility of the two sides. Last time I checked, the military work for the government. The government has lied to us repeatedly over every aspect of this war and done everything they can to shut down any criticism.

I know you want to defend your old team, but the simple truth is that the RN have no more credibility right now than do the IRGCN.

Not aimed directly at Ian, but;

"You're a prime example of the problem armed forces face here at home in the UK nowadays, members of the general public who don't understand global politics combined with the importance of the military and the respect they deserve and yet still feel the need to defend over your own military a foreign nation with a history of threats to destroy other countries, that treats it's own people in a horrific manner if they don't conform and that actively supports and encourages terrorism through groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Iraqi insurgents."

Iran was a secular democracy until 1953 when organised a coup to be led by a Nazi collaborator. The CIA (part funded by Churchill) whipped up religious fundamentalism by accusing then PM Mossadegh of being anti-islamic and basicall *created* the modern Islamic fundamentalist movement. Next we installed the repressive, anti-democratic Shah as ruler and trained the secret police force, SAVAK, who were responsible for some of the worst human rights violations that ever took place. All of this because Mossadegh had the nerve to suggest that the profits from the country's oil reserves should be used to build schools and hospitals instead of having 90% of the wealth be siphoned of by BP (then the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.).

Iran may be a monster, but it is a monster we created. Just because the regime is monstrous it doesn't automatically follow that they are always wrong and we are always right. I'm sick and tired of hearing that unless I support the military in everything they do, I must simply be ignorant because the truth is so self-evident.

Ian, you have done a wonderful job of illustrating the utter hypocrisy involved in all of this. Starting with your assumption that *our* boys should be defended over *their* boys (never mind the evidence either way) right through to the standard "supporting terrorists" line. Our government has either enacted or supported the same policies as the Iranians over the years - we've even practised them against the Iranians themselves. We support Israel who are responsible for more innocent deaths than Hamas and Hezbollah.

If you're going to reprimand people for their lack of awareness of geopolitical realities, at least have the deceny to do it from an objective standpoint instead of this bullshit US/UK exceptionalism that the government has worked so hard to get everyone to buy into.

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Stop

@ Karl Lattimer

Matt's comment may have been invalidated because he got the other facts messed up, but he was right about the most important part. The US/UK//"coalition of the willing(ly strongarmed)" war against Iraq was/is an illegal war of agression under international law. Thus, the Royal Navy shouldn't have been anywhere near there in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

<no title>

IMO if the navy had been doing the job they are supposed to be experts at, they would have seen a situation developing, and ensured they had enough fire power around to avoid humiliation.

I probably suffer too much from attention deficit to read all 4 pages, but if one hasn't agreed a border, then presumably the whole waterway defaults to 'international' doesn't it?

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Black Helicopters

Re: Didn't this happen to the Aussies as well?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6228342.stm

yeah... Aussies were "having none of it" and basically told the Iranians off.

then the Aussie black choppers took the boarding party off the ship and they went on about business.

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Joe

But!

Why is TTW the abbreviation for Territorial Waters?

Terri Torial Waters, perhaps?

Hmm...

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Stop

The problem with going on about illegality

is that currently the coalition forces are there with the agreement of the Iraqi goverment and thus are there legally, unless you consider the current goverment of Iraq to be illegitimate and that the legitimate government is the baath party, which would be a curious position to take if you considered yourself a liberal.

For that matter Iran has dipolmatic relations with Iraq so they presumably accept the current government of the country.

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@Ian

Fair enough I wrote them the wrong way round (dog started barking while I was typing) but otherwise the points stand.

I think I have some understanding of the politics of the region, having spoken to both Iraqis and Iranians. All of whom disagree with comments like:

"Yes, because we don't hang people for being gay, jail, beat and torture women for being raped and arrest people for getting a haircut."

I'm not saying these things never happen but it looks like you've got a rather exaggerated view of what goes on, while turning a blind eye and trying to minimise the things that are being done in our name.

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IT Angle

great, but...

Loved the article, really I do... But the subject matter doesnt seem to be a reg-y area, sure the writing style is disticltly el reg, but the subject isn't.

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Alien

One Flew over the Cuckold's Nest ?

"But hold on. On the Reg defence desk we're always up for a bit of MoD bashing, but in this case Her Majesty's officers and mandarins are only really guilty of failing to explain themselves properly." ... Love the Semantics, Lewis.

"It was an illegal opportunistic raid, pure and simple." Hmmm. Just following suit in the area then?

And that's Rupert's card marked good and proper too....... which is sad for the Times, to be found wanting/lacking .... or should that be lackeying.

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Step 1

Step 1: Kidnap UK soldiers.

Step 2: Allow the UK to humiliate itself by siding with Iran instead of with it's own military.

Step 3: Sharia in London.

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Anonymous Coward

@Ian

"What the fuck are you on about?

"So we were there as part of an illegal war, at a point after the yanks had illegally kidnapped Iraqi soldiers and then the Iraqi's probably acted illegally."

What Iraqi soldiers have we kidnapped? I can only guess you're referring to the arrests of Iranian diplomats/spies depending on who you believe."

The fuck that he is on about is called Guantanamo Bay.

Google it -- you'll get plenty of hits.

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Alien

That's never a real AMFM posting

Apart from the title it actually makes sense!?!!

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Flame

Whether the war was "illegal" or not is still disputed too...

so stick that in your pipes and smoke it.

I am, of course, the thing that left-wing critics hate most. I'm a left-winger (a Marxist specifically) who believes that removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right thing to do, by whatever means necessary.

You lot, meanwhile, are the kind of sad apologists who give socialism a bad name. You're the Neville Chamberlains who went for appeasement. You're the concientious objectors who stayed at home while others fought and died to protect you.

You're not interested in anybody's welfare, soldiers or otherwise - you're just trying to score political points.

Shame on you.

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Pirate

Gunboats or diplomacy

"the Coalition forces have unilaterally drawn an "Op line" out to international waters based on rules laid out in the UN Convention of the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS)"

What legal right does the US and UK to unilaterally short-circuit the UN in this matter ? Occupying powers cannot redraw borders.

Why not tell the Iranians and the Iraqis that a border has been imposed upon them ? The Iraqi commander of this waterway, Brigadier General Hakim Ghasem, immediately contradicted the UK story saying the British sailors weren't in Iraqi waters.

In 1932 Iraq appealed in vain to the League of Nations that the border be established at the mid-point of the river - the 'thalweg' principle. The British supported the Shah of Iran.1975 claim to all of the river, only to then support Saddams claim to the entitre river. We are the last nation who should be defining that border and NATO sailors would be better deployed patrolling the North Atlantic.

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Pirate

@Matt @Ian see Risky.... You too Steve

Don't forget, it's the 'democratically elected' government of Iraq.

Also how many years does the whole 'legal' thing work? I mean, EVERYTHING the US does is illegal since it's Native American land right? Same for Iran, since that belongs to the Zroastrians right? The UK should be some Celtic government right? And if a burglar is in my house stealing my cat, I can torture him right, since complaining that it's illegal is hypocritical? Or if Iran nuked the Cornwall? "ohh darn, we were there illegally, guess we can't complain." Heck, since we're in Iraq waters illegally, and Iran can do it, why not China or North Korea or (insert favorite cause here?)

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Stop

@Risky

the coalition forces "are there with the agreement of the Iraqi goverment and thus are there legally, unless you consider the current goverment of Iraq to be illegitimate and that the legitimate government is the baath party, which would be a curious position to take if you considered yourself a liberal."

Unfortunately, being a liberal does not imply that we think it's lawful to illegally invade and enforce your own government. Just because you don't like someone doesn't mean that they can be thrown out.

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Paris Hilton

oooh, a picture of a boat and gps coordinates

GPS coordinates gotten using Iranian satellites, no, no, Russian satellites, hmmm.....

2k miles away from your own country illegal invading and killing 100k of Iraqis, threatening 100k of Iranians.

boo hoo!

Paris, even she's not this gullible.

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Linux

Democracy

"who believes that removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right thing to do, by whatever means necessary."

Some douche-bag coward just said that. I guess it makes sense if you're into trading dictators and colonization but democracy will never be "real" if the movement towards popular freedom does not begin, and end, with the downtrodden populace.

Coming into a country Team America style has never proven to be a good idea (well, I guess it worked OK in WWII) but every other time we go about waving flags and guns we get our ass kicked and sent home crying over all of our dead young people.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: illegality

"unless you consider the current goverment of Iraq to be illegitimate and that the legitimate government is the baath party"

Hm.. isn't that basically the US position when Vietnam invaded Cambodia and single-handedly wiped out the Khmer Rouge? The US preferred to have the genocidal Khmer Rouge than the "commie" Vietnamese in control.

That said, I think Iraq's government is "anarchy".

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Silly me

I thought the right came from the first gulf war , under terms of surrender. Now do you say the first gulf war was illegal ??.

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Anonymous Coward

@Step 1

"Step 1: Kidnap UK soldiers."

"Step 2: Allow the UK to humiliate itself by siding with Iran instead of with it's own military."

"Step 3: Sharia in London."

Read this.

http://www.mediamonitors.net/gillespie1.html

"The attack by over 150 U.S. warplanes on Libya, on April 14, 1986, which caused great destruction and over 40 civilian deaths including that of Col. Qaddafi's adopted daughter, was carried out only after Mossad field agents entered Libya in February of 1986 and placed a "Trojan" radio transmitter there to broadcast false signals, according to former Mossad field officer Victor Ostrovsky writing in The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda in 1994. The spurious signals duped American intelligence officials monitoring the broadcasts causing them to believe the Libyan government was sponsoring terrorism in Europe and was responsible for the deadly April 5, 1986, terror-bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin which took the lives of two American soldiers and a Turkish woman. Reports that Spanish and French intelligence agencies were not fooled by the Israeli "Trojan" transmitter broadcasts lend credence to suggestions that American intelligence officials may have been unable to resist political pressure for retaliation or perhaps exercised judgment that was influenced by Israeli sympathies. If, as it appears, Libya was not responsible for the bombing of the Berlin night spot and the loss of three lives, the question of who was remains unanswered, as does another obvious question: Was it the Mossad? Ostrovsky also revealed Israeli espionage that occurred on American soil, in Washington, DC. in 1979. In his scathing 1990 expose, By Way of Deception: A Devastating Insiders Portrait of the Mossad,"

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Bronze badge

Speaking as an innocent civilian.

"But, in the end, have the Guard got a leg to stand on here? Certainly not. They blatantly invaded Iraqi territory so as to kidnap some hostages for use in trades with the Americans (and rumour has it they achieved at least some of their aims). It was an illegal opportunistic raid, pure and simple."

But, in the end, has the RN got a leg to stand on here?

Certainly not!

They blatantly invaded Iraq to steal oil for use in Britain with the Americans (and rumour has it they achieved at least some of their aims). It was an illegal invasion, pure and simple.

And what the hell respect the Iranians have to pay HM Hydrographer I do not know. Neither do you.

In fact it doesn't seem that you have even considered the matter.

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Coat

"illegal opportunistic raid, pure and simple"

And I wonder what gave them that idea?

If only these pesky Iranians would stop messing up our illegal opportunistic invasions by nicking our rubber boats in such an illegal opportunistic manner.

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