April 6, 2007

The British detainees – some answers, some questions

The two officers among the 15 British sailors and marines detained for almost two weeks by the Iranians spoke out today about the incident. Their answers, while illustrative and do put to bed some of the speculation about their treatment at the hands of the Iranians, raise more questions.

The young officers, one a Royal Navy lieutenant and the other a Royal Marine captain, gave a rather eloquent account of the incident from their perspectives. One commanded the boarding party and the other the navy boats that transported them from the frigate HMS Cornwall to the ship to be inspected. Several things jumped out at me that are at odds with how American forces do things. For example, a Royal Navy helicopter supporting the two-boat boarding party departed while the party was still on the vessel being searched, leaving the British without any covering fire support.

The navy officer also explained that the HMS Cornwall was not in a position to provide cover for the operation. This pretty much left them out there alone without the capability to defend themselves against the more heavily armed Iranian gunboats – which were allowed to approach the British boarding party almost two miles inside Iraqi waters. What was the commander of the Cornwall thinking? The Royal Navy will need to review these procedures.

After seizing the Britons, the Iranians blindfolded, bound, stripped and isolated them – the exact type of treatment of Al-Qa’idah terrorists and Iraqi insurgents for which the United States military has been severely criticized. The 15 were held for almost two weeks, denied access to British consular officials, threatened with trial and imprisonment, coerced to make “confessions,” and coerced to express gratitude to their captors. They have been criticized by some for being too cooperative with the Iranians. The Royal Navy will have to address that, but it bears much of the responsibility for them being in the predicament in the first place. It is almost impossible to imagine the U.S. Navy allowing their personnel to be placed in a position where they were not supported, and then seized without a fight.

Back to the point - let me get this straight. We have the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps send its gunboats over a mile and half into Iraqi waters, detain a Royal Navy boarding party at gunpoint, take them into custody, subject them to psychological abuse, put them on display in a media circus and twisted their release into a show of Iranian magnanimity.

Hopefully the world sees this for what it is – an engineered Iranian propaganda stunt. More importantly, where is world outrage at how these young men and woman were treated while being detained by the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism?

You know – Iran, the people who brought you Hizballah.