Since the capture of the British sailors by Iran, some interesting revelations have come to light.
Tony Blair is adamant that the soldiers were captured on the Iraqi side of the border. Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray tells us something different:
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. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.
None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden the Iranian position.
Of course, the British media has been ablaze with vitriol aimed at the Iranians, with rumours that British troops surrounded the Iranian embassy in Basra and fired into the air. The word is that this was the 6th incursion into Iranian waters by the British, not a single incident.
Conspiracy theories have been sparked by the fact that the female member of the team, Seaman Specialist Faye Turney, was interviewed only hours before the British were captured. The timing seems strangely convenient.
During a revealing interview on The BBC’s Newsnight programme last night, Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban, explained how unlikely it is that such an event could actually happen. The area where this event supposedly took place was well within the Radar Scope of HMS Cornwall, not to mention a whole host of other vessels: which were all mysteriously absent at the moment when the Iranian interception party appeared on the scene.
Urban and host Jeremy Paxman conclude that The Royal Navy were, at the very least, grossly negligent in their duty of policing The Shat Al Arab/International Waterways.
So was a trap set for the Iranians?