Britain Rattles a Saber

Six days ago, Iran captured 15 members of the British Royal Navy who were apparently on a routine anti-smuggling patrol authorized by the United Nations and the Iraqi government. Now Iran holds them hostage, refusing to say where they are being held and disallowing British officials from visiting them. (Breaking: Iran supposedly to release the female soldier today or tomorrow.) According to Vice Admiral Charles Style, the Iranians first claimed the sailors were taken from Iraqi waters, then claimed they were taken from Iranian waters. Britain has now made public "details of what it said was the sailors’ position when they were apprehended," which places them in Iraqi waters, and Prime Minister Tony Blair is getting threatening.

"It is now time to ratchet up international and diplomatic pressure" on Iran to demonstrate its "total isolation," Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament after the Royal Navy made public details of what it said was the sailors’ position when they were apprehended.

The Royal Navy rejected two sets of coordinates provided by Iran as evidence of Tehran's claim that the British sailors had strayed into its territorial waters.

…In diplomatic contacts, Iran had provided Britain with an initial set of coordinates for the position of the boats that placed the incident in Iraqi waters.

"We pointed this out to them on Sunday in diplomatic contacts," Vice Admiral Style said. "After we did this they then provided a second set of coordinates that places the incident in Iranian waters" over two nautical miles away from where they were said to be by Britain, he said.

"It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of coordinates," he said.
Um, yeah. It is.

Of course, I don't trust the Blair administration any more than I trust the Bush administration. Following days of dispute over whether the soldiers were seized from the Iraqi or Iranian territory of a highly contested waterway—the median of which was demarcated by buoys until recent years—Britain has now produced satellite tracking data "proving" the "boat carrying the Britons was 'clearly' 3.1 kilometers (1.7 nautical miles) inside Iraqi waters and that they were 'ambushed' by the Iranian forces." Here's the picture the British Ministry of Defense has released:

Oh, great. Well, that settles it for me. It's the same thing even at the BBC. Evidently, we're meant—as per usual—to take the word of "the good guys" at face value, without thinking about it too much or questioning whether the "proof" they're offering might be something we'd, you know, even want to see in some kind of readable detail. Call me cynical, but blind faith in Blair's government was one of the things that got us into the war those soldiers were fighting when they were taken. Or have we all forgotten the Downing Street Memos already?

Suffice it to say, I'm getting nervous hearing Bush's best bud Blair talking about the dispute entering a "different phase" if the sailors are not released. (Especially when American neocon's dicks are getting all hard again.) I really hope that Iran's decision to release the female soldier is a sign that this will be diffused in short order.

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