Posted by: Lister | April 17, 2008

Nobody Told Iran Where The Border Was

The British sailors captured by Iran where in disputed waters. That means that Parliament was misled — the posh term for something or other.

The Britons were seized because the US-led coalition designated a sea boundary for Iran’s territorial waters without telling the Iranians where it was, internal Ministry of Defence briefing papers reveal.

This is according to documents sought by the Times under the Freedom of Infomation Act.

Newly released Ministry of Defence documents state that:

  • — The arrests took place in waters that are not internationally agreed as Iraqi;
  • — The coalition unilaterally designated a dividing line between Iraqi and Iranian waters in the Gulf without telling Iran where it was;
  • — The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ coastal protection vessels were crossing this invisible line at a rate of three times a week; It was the British who apparently raised their weapons first before the Iranian gunboats came alongside;
  • — The cornered British, surrounded by heavily armed Iranians, made a hopeless last-minute radio plea for a helicopter to come back and provide air cover.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, repeatedly told the Commons that the personnel were seized in Iraqi waters.

And a map was used to show us all which side of the line the Cornwall 15 were captured. They just didn’t tell us that the Iranians hadn’t been told about that map. And that the line was not internationally recognised. The truth but not the whole truth.

The MOD has responded:

It is standing firm over claims that the 15 Plymouth-based sailors and marines seized by Iran in March last year were in internationally-disputed territory at the time.

Except that wasn’t the claim. The claim was that the Cornwall 15 were captured in Iraqi waters — they even claimed the co-ordinates given by the Iranians were in Iraqi waters:

Satellite data proves 15 navy personnel being held in Iran were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when they were seized, UK defence officials say.

[…] The prime minister said: “These personnel were patrolling in Iraqi waters under a United Nations mandate. Their boarding and checking of the Indian merchant vessel was routine – there was no justification therefore for their detention.”

The BBC provides a map, which clarifies the claim made at the time of the capture:

BBC UK version Cornwall 15



  1. how embarrassing.

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