Breaking: Fifteen British sailors have been captured by Iran, the sailors were on routine patrol in Iraqi waters when this occurred. More from BBC News UK:
Fifteen British Navy personnel have been captured at gunpoint by Iranian forces, the Ministry of Defence says.
The men were seized at 1030 local time when they boarded a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.
The Royal Navy said the men, who were on a routine patrol in Iraqi waters, were understood to be unharmed.
The Foreign Office has demanded the immediate and safe return of the men, who are based on HMS Cornwall.
That vessel’s commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he was hoping there had been a “simple mistake” over territorial waters.
More at Bill Roggio’s Fourth Rail in his daily Iraq update.
There is a previous history of this in 2004, and it’s typical for militant Islamic states to try gambits like this, our first war after the Revolution was over similar events during President Jefferson’s tenure. This also harkens back to the confrontation with the US over the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz.
There’s nothing in the official state run press in Iran about this yet, although Achmadinejad continues to saber rattle against the US in Paris today.
There is another interesting dynamic at play: although the actÂ is overtly against the British, it is as well an act against Iraq if the soldiers were seized in waters Iraq claims. The original Iraq-Iran war that lasted ten years was over territorial claims, this could presage the re-ignition of like hostilities between the two nations. Iran needs to tread carefully here. Speculation and history from AP Wire:
A 1975 treaty recognized the middle of the waterway as the border. Saddam Hussein canceled the treaty five years later and invaded Iran, triggering an eight-year war. Iran disputes Iraq’s jurisdiction over the waters near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab.
“It’s been in dispute for some time,” Aandahl said. “We’ve been operating there for a couple of years and we know the lines very well. This was a compliant boarding, this happens routinely. What’s out of the ordinary is the Iranian response.”
In June 2004, six British marines and two sailors were seized by Iran in the Shatt al-Arab. They were presented blindfolded on Iranian television and admitted entering Iranian waters illegally, then released unharmed after three days.
Vali Nasr, a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that the latest detentions may be Iranian retaliation for the arrest of five Iranians in a U.S.-led raid in northern Iraq in January. The U.S. said the five included a Revolutionary Guards general.
Bill O’Reilly’s analysis on the radio just now, rough paraphrase:Â ‘This is a good thing, because it will show Britain and the European allies just how BAD and Nutty these people are, and that’s a good thing.’