Brits in the Gulf: What we're not being told.
As always, our mainstream media is loath to reporting all sides to a dispute that is far more complex than our leaders let on.
Despite Tony BlairÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s adamant denial that the 15 British sailors and marines captured by the Iranians were intruding in Iranian waters, Commodore Nick Lambert, who headed the British naval task force, was by no means as categorical:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were in Iraqi territorial waters.Ã¢â‚¬Â He said, but thenÃ¢â‚¬â€in a statement he probably now regretsÃ¢â‚¬â€œ he continued : Ã¢â‚¬Å“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 complicatedÃ¢â‚¬Â.
BritainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has become a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, after citing Commodore LambertÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statement wrote, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Before people get too carried away, the following is worth bearing in mind. I write as a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Iranians claimed the British soldiers had strayed into Iranian territorial waters. If they had, then the Iranians had every right to detain them for questioning.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The difficulty is that the maritime delimitation in the North West of the Persian Gulf, between Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, has never been resolved. It is not therefore a question of just checking your GPS to see where you are. This is a perfectly legitimate dispute, in which nobody is particularly at faultÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is nothing outlandish about Iranian claims, and we have no right in law to be boarding Iranian or other shipping in what may well be Iranian waters.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The UN Convention on the Law of The Sea carries a heavy presumption on the right of commercial vessels to Ã¢â‚¬Å“innocent passageÃ¢â‚¬Â, especially through straits like Hormuz and in both territorial and international waters. You probably wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read this elsewhere in these jingoistic times but, in international law, we are very probably in the wrong. As long as the Iranians neither mistreat our Marines nor wilfully detain them too long, they have the right.Ã¢â‚¬Â