Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Good analysis of Iran capture/hostage situation

It seems at least one American in Iran is just as confused as everyone about why Iran would capture 15 British sailors:

Have you ever had a time when nothing is going well for you? Yesterday’s capture of the British Navy personnel by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Naval Corps is just another bad thing at a time when most Iranians feel nothing is going well for them. Considering Iran’s situation, one would think that we would do everything to improve its position in the world, and would do everything possible to make sure that the UN Security Council would not pass another damaging series of economic sanctions against it. But that is when you are rational and you are not looking for crises.

I still don’t understand what happened yesterday. But since yesterday I have been trying to figure out why Iran captured British Navy personnel at the moment when every eye in the world is upon us.

Thanks to Grishnash for pointing this out, as well as this little take on the Iran capture situation out. An excerpt:
All the data I’ve seen, including the conflicting “eyewitness” reports, indicate the Brits were taken in a disputed area.

Now, why did the Cornwall not intervene? First of all, a British ship would not be allowed to fire on an Iranian military or any other vessel without authorization from a much higher authority unless it had been fired on first. Even if such authorization was asked for, it’s doubtful it would have been given, and even if it had, it would likely have arrived too late. Secondly, there are limitations imposed by the ship’s weapon systems and the ROE. Firing at the Iranian boats would likely put civilian vessels and/or the Brits themselves in mortal danger. The only opportunity to engage the Iranian vessels was during their approach to the Brits. At that point, their intent was not clear and therefore firing on them would be impossible. Once they reached the Brits and their intent became clear, they could not be engaged without hitting their own personnel.

Finally, it’s important to note something the news reports do not. The IRGC serves many purposes in Iran. It is an internal security force to protect the regime; it’s a conventional military force (and unconventional too as it controls the country’s chemical munitions and it’s ballistic missiles); but it’s also is a border security force and is, in some respects, similar to the Coast Guard along its coastline and waterways. In other words, the IRGC has it’s hands in a lot of pockets, but one of those is a legitimate coastal protection role. Even so, I think it’s highly unlikely this wasn’t an intended operation designed to take hostages, for lack of a better term.


Blogger grishnash said...

This is the best map I've found so far:


Here is legalese on what the actual border is:


From section three there, the border up the river is defined to start at Point R, which is the point where that dotted line bends between the 1 and 2 on that CNN map, and from there it follows a straight line up to the median point of the river at its mouth. You can see a couple of things from that map. I'm inclined to believe that #2 on that map is a false "correction" by Iran, and that #1 was probably the true position. I don't think the boarding craft would have taken such an indirect path between the merchant vessel and the Cornwall, so #1 is probably right. Keep in mind, though, that the actual document defining the borders defines only the "land border". This includes the actual border on dry ground, the river borders, and that straight line segment that's close enough to land to really be considered the mouth of the waterway. The borders at sea have never been formally defined, but as explained in that link, the same agreement says that the territorial waters beyond that point should be freely open to both Iraq and Iran, although I should add that it makes no mention of third-parties such as the U.K. That dashed line to the right (east) of Point R is drawn up according to general principles of maritime law, but isn't a formalized border like the section to the left. Note also, that because of the contour of the coastline nearest that point, the #1 position is actually closer to Iranian shore than Iraqi, even though it's south of the line. That is probably key to understanding the dispute.

8:00 AM, March 29, 2007  

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