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Well gee, I’m convinced.


In this image made available by the Ministry of Defence in London, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, a GPS device shows the location of the incident involving 15 Royal Navy personnel, as seen from a Royal Navy helicopter over the merchant vessel in the Shatt al-Arab waterway on Sunday March 25. Vice Admiral Charles Style told a press conference in London, that the naval boats were 1.7 nautical miles (2 miles; 3.1 kilometers) inside Iraqi waters when Iran seized their 15 crew members, supporting Prime Minister Tony Blair's contention that the captured personnel had not crossed into Iranian territory, as Tehran claims. (AP Photo/Ministry of Defence)

Boy is this confusing …. or should I say … was confusing until the British Ministry of Defense displayed that great photo. Now it's all completely clear to me … the upstanding young sailors, on the lookout for car smugglers and otherwise minding their own business … or Iraq's business or … well, someone's business … were kidnapped from Iraqi waters by those nefarious Iranians. After all, the UK MOD has shown us a "GPS device" showing the "location of the incident."  Phew! Now we know all we need to know … we have, after all, seen the pictures.

Oh but wait, you say … Seems there's more to the story … Like that oh-so-convincing vial of something that Powell proudly displayed to the UN, our "evidence" is perhaps a bit less than it seems. In fact, there are a few problems with this photo.

First, we have the report on CNN that the photo was not taken during the event at all but was shot afterwards – they don't say how long afterwards but they assure us … and of course, we believe then … that the ship being searched "had not moved since the incident." So there you have it … photo showing hand holding GPS shows ship in Iraqi waters.  And we know it's in Iraqi waters because we've been shown a map: 

Not quite says Barry Lando:

The BBC for instance has already interviewed a supposed expert regarding the map, who vouched for its authenticity. … Turns out the expert had been referred to the BBC by the British Ministry of Defense–who also turned out the plan. Sounds like the rerun of a bad movie we’ve already seen.

And Lando points to Craig Murray, former British Ambassador, who reminds us of an uncomfortable fact:

The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker. But there are two colossal problems. A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force. B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it.

 In fact, Craig Murray goes on to note:

Sadly, but perhaps predictably, both the British and Iranian governments are now acting like idiots. Tony Blair has let it be known that he is "utterly confident" that the British personnel were in Iraqi waters. He has of course never been known for his expertise in the Law of the Sea. But let us contrast this political certainty with the actual knowledge of the Royal Navy Commander of the operation on which the captives were taken. Before the spin doctors could get to him, Commodore Lambert said: "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may well claim that they were in their territorial waters. The extent and definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated"

Commodore Lambert is not the only one who didn't get the talking points in time. While the US commanders have been assuring everyone that the naval war games which just happen to be taking place in the Gulf have nothing whatsoever to do with this incident,  it seems Kevin Aandahl , a spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in the Gulf island of Bahrain got his fax from Washington late too:

"The planning accelerated in conjunction with what was going on, but it was absolutely not the sole determinant … We are here exercising every day…If Iran takes away a message from this, that's up to them…Our exercise is absolutely a short notice exercise."…The Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain is the command center for the roughly 30 U.S. and 15 allied ships patrolling regional waters, including areas right on Iran's doorstep.

In the midst of all this oh-so-reassuring and completely convincing news, there's another piece of this puzzle that we won't hear on the MSM – the fact that the US has been holding six Iranian Diplomats since January 11 (as well as two others since December):

U.S.-led multinational forces detained six Iranians Thursday at an Iranian government office in the northern city of Irbil, Iraqi officials said… The forces entered the building about 3 a.m., detaining the Iranians and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information….. A person who lives near the building said the troops had used stun bombs and brought down an Iranian flag from the roof. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, the resident said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. … The regional Kurdish government condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of the Iranians.

As Ian Welsh of The Agonist writes, this is a Tit For Tat Hostage Crisis

The US has been playing "catch and release" and sometimes just "catch" with Iranian nationals for some time – including seizing diplomats, who should be even more "off limits" than soldiers. No one in the West seemed to give a damn about that, so any screaming and whining and outrage about grabbing the sailors is just hypocrisy  (snip)  Why should only the West be allowed to grab hostages but if someone else does it's some great outrage? None of this is to say that Iran should have grabbed hostages. It may have been a very stupid thing to do. But it's not some great moral outrage – it's just tit-for-tat. The US has been seizing Iranians more or less arbitrarily, and holding them in more isolated circumstances than these soldiers are being held in. I doubt the soldiers are being tortured – who knows what has been done to the Iranians seized.

Ian went on to say in the comments:

The coalition picked this fight, dared Iran to do anything, and now that the Iranians did something are acting like they are innocent victims. No, I don't think I'm all that outraged, and I don't think most Muslims are either, since unlike in the US, they remember who "started it".

And that's the only piece of this whole incident that makes perfect sense to me.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com