Friday, March 23, 2007

British Sailors seized by Iran at gunpoint in the Persian Gulf

The HMS Cornwall

15 British sailors and marines who had boarded a merchant ship in Iraqi waters conducting a routine ship search have been seized at gunpoint and taken captive by the Iranian navy.

The sailors and marines were off of the HMS Cornwall, a Type 22 frigate that was part of the multinational task force that patrols the Gulf.

The Cornwall's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said the frigate lost communication with the boarding party, but a helicopter crew saw the Iranian vessels approach.

"I've got 15 sailors and marines who have been arrested by the Iranians and my immediate concern is their safety," Lambert told BBC TV.

The sailors and Marines were in inflatable boats called RIBS and had completed a successful inspection of one ship, reportedly a dhow, when the group and their two boats were surrounded by Iranian patrol boats and taken into Iranian territory.

The seizure took place in the Shatt Al Arab waterway in Iraqi territorial waters of the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian boats carry bow-mounted machine guns, while the British boarding party carried only sidearms. According to Commander Kevin Aandahl of the British Fifth Fleet,no shots were fired and there appeared to be no physical harm done to any personnel involved or their vessels, Aandahl said.

The British Government is demanding the immediate release of the men and their equipment. Unlike the US, Britain has diplomatic relations with Iran and the Iranian ambassador in London, Rasoul Movahedian was later summoned to the Foreign Office to discuss the incident in a meeting which was described as "brisk but cordial."

This timing of this incident is fairly interesting.

The Iranians are in the midst of a fresh round of war games in the Gulf, and obviously wanted to send a message to Britain prior to the scheduled UN vote on fresh sanctions against Iran. Just before the British sailors were seized, UK commanders in Basra accused Iran of being behind 90% of the violence in South Iraq.

The seizure of the sailors also took place against a backdrop of an unprecedented and surprise rendezvous between American and French naval forces in the Gulf, which occurred yesterday.

The French nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle and its task force rendezvoused with the USS John C. Stennis and its task force in the Arabian Sea Wednesday for what were described as ` joint missions in the global war on terror'. The Charles de Gaulle has a contingent of Rafale fighter-bombers and will reportedly will fly missions over Afghanistan alongside US warplanes.

The French task force is led by Rear Adm. Xavier Magne and consists of five warships along with the Charles deGaulle - the FNS Cassard guided missile destroyer, the FNS Tourville anti-submarine frigate, the FNS Dupleix destroyer adapted for escorting oil tankers and the FNS Marne, a command and supply vessel.

Its arrival augments the US naval buildup in the Persian Gulf I've reported about previously, and raises to three the number of Western aircraft carriers cruising within striking distance of Iran, including the USS Eisenhower.And that doesn't include the USS Boxer amphibious assault task force, also in the Gulf.

Could this be the lead in to Operation Mullah Stomp?

The Iranians were obviously surprised at this development, timed to occur before the UN debate on sanctions next week. They probably assumed that the French were against the tough US stance on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

It may be that French president Jacques Chirac has decided before he leaves office in May to repair some of the damage done to the relationship between the US and France.

In any event, the seizure of the British sailors and marines has to be seen as an Iranian attempt to `play tough' against the backdrop of these developments.

This was simply a message, and I'll be surprised if the Brits aren't returned unharmed in a couple of days.

Blogpal Canker has a good take on this from across the pond...


Anonymous said...

In order for the Iranian leadership to stay in power, they must have an external enemy. This is very simillar to the German fascists during WWII. The Americans make the perfect enemy, America is a very rich country that makes virtually no effort to counter the lies that are continuously told about it. Also, America has a tendency to try to appease its enemies while undercutting its friends or those who would ponder becoming its friends. America does this to try and get its enemies to like it. Unfortunately it does not work. It only emboldens our enemies and leads potential friends to conclude that it is more profitable to be an enemy of America than it is to be a friend of America.

I expect Iran to attack US interests outside of the Middle East very soon. They may use their proxies to attack the US homeland. Also, it would not surprise me, if the Iranians have covertly moved military assets onto the US mainland. This could be done quite easily via the porous southern border of the US and their are many Mexican, Central American, and South American gangs and even governments who would happily help the Iranians.

Very soon the Democrats in Congress will move to completely cut off funds for the war effort. Even if they do not cut off the funding they will attach strings to the military budget that will make it very difficult for the military to operate. Because of this the Bush Administration will need to act quickly and decisively to eliminate the threat posed by Iran.

Btw, I'm not sure what the French are up to but I doubt they have any real desire to repair their relationship with the US. Even if the US is successful in an attack against Iran, I fully to expect Iran or its proxies to attack the American homeland. This will likely be done with chemical or biological weapons. Millions of Americans will likely die in this attack. Even if my most dire prediciton does not come to pass, the Iranian attacks will devestate the American economy. In the fianl analysis, barring a sea change in the world geo political situation, America is on the way out as a major power.

Even if Iran loses this round to the the US and its allies their young population and their vast oil wealth mean they will be able to recover far more easily than the US would be able to. Iran is likely to be a major power for the foreseeable future. The only real question is will be an Islamic/Marxist power or will it be something less threatening. Long range France needs good relations with an up and coming power like Iran more than they need good relations with a soon to be former great power like the US. This becomes espectially apparent when we consider the fact that France has no real military power to speak of.

Two possibilities come to mind when thinking about French actions. 1.) They may be finally, slowly but surely, waking up to the existential threat that Islamic extremists and the Communists allies pose to Western civilization. 2.) They are double dealing with the Americans and are actually working with the Iranians. The Americans should be very careful. The French have stabbed them in the back before. I hope reason number for French actions is the correct reason, however, it is hard to be very optimistic.

Finally, with regards to France stabbing the US in the back we can say what goes around comes around. After the US has stabbed its most important allies in the world who are Israel and Kurdistan in the back on numerous occasions.

Undermining your friends and appeasing your enemies is no way to run a country and it is definitely no way to run a war effort. In any event, assuming the US survives at all, which is problematic at best, it is, in all likelyhood, finished as a major power. When this happens despots and their shills within the international media will need to find someone else to kick around!!

Anonymous said...

Poor sailors, Iran wants war...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
abandon your soldiers

never retaliate
raise voice then apologize