Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iranians Say GPS Of Detained Brits Show They Were In Iranian Waters

Iran has said the British (sailors and marines) they captured last week were definitely in Iranian waters, according to the GPS units carried by the captured Brits. And in a separate report, an Iranian representative has said that if Britain wants them back, they are going to have to admit making a mistake. Press TV of Iran reported Thursday:

Iran says detained Britons' GPS showed incursion
The British sailors were each equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) device at the time they were arrested by Iranian marine guards after illegally entering Iranian territorial waters.

Official sources told Press TV late on Wednesday that all the detained Britons carried GPS devices which clearly indicated they had left Iraqi territory and trespassed about 500 meters into Iran's waters in the Persian Gulf.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Iranian Embassy in London said the detained Britons were 0.5 km inside Iranian waters in Arvand Rud when arrested.

"We are confident that Iranian and British governments are capable of resolving this security case through their close contacts and cooperation in order to prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents in the area," the statement read.

"Iran has given the geographical characteristics of the place of arrests to the British government which indicates that the British personnel were half a [kilometre] inside Iranian waters," it added.

Britain's military had claimed earlier on Wednesday that the British vessels were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi territorial waters when the incident happened.
And Canada's CTV is reporting: Iran: Britain must admit 'trespass' to end dispute
Britain must admit 15 sailors and marines entered Iranian waters for the two countries to end their dispute, Iran's foreign minister has said.

Manouchehr Mottaki told The Associated Press that "admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem."
So now it will all be about whether Britain wants to solve the problem or allow it to fester. Clearly the idea of solving it sits well with at least one of those being held in Iran.
"Obviously we trespassed into their waters," British sailor Faye Turney said on the video broadcast by Al-Alam, an Arabic-language, Iranian state-run television station that is carried across the Middle East.

"They were very friendly and very hospitable, very thoughtful, nice people. They explained to us why we've been arrested, there was no harm, no aggression," said Turney, who was the only person to be shown speaking in the video.
The Iranian Embassy in London said Wednesday that a letter allegedly written by Turney to her parents says she had "apparently" entered Iranian territorial waters.

An embassy official sent a copy to the Associated Press:

"We were out in the boats when we were arrested by Iranian forces as we had apparently gone into Iranian waters," the letter said. "I wish we hadn't because then I'd be home with you all right now."

The letter also mentions that the British crew was being treated well.

"Please don't worry about me," the letter said. "I am staying strong. Hopefully it won't be long until I am home to get ready for Molly's birthday party with a present from Iranian people."
CTV has more, including a British spokesman disputing the Iranian claim about the GPS coordinates:
Iran and Britain are offering up different versions of exactly where the sailors and marines were seized.

Iran says they captured the Royal Navy crew 0.5 km inside Iranian waters.

However, British military officials say their boarding vessels were about three kilometres inside Iraqi territorial waters when the incident occurred.

British Vice Admiral Charles Style told reporters that co-ordinates given Sunday by the Iranians placed the vessels in Iraqi waters.

Style said the Iranians changed the co-ordinates on Tuesday to a location within their waters.

"It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of co-ordinates,'' Style said.
Actually, it's even harder to understand why the Brits haven't said anything about their GPS systems. Surely British HQ knows exactly where those troops were captured. And after all, if the Brits had conclusive proof that their people were in Iraqi waters, they would have shown it to the world, no? And the sooner the better, too.

CTV also has this blinding insight:
Foreign affairs expert Eric Margolis told CTV Newsnet on Wednesday that the dispute has to be put into context.

"The Western powers and Iran are playing a game of chicken in the Gulf," said Margolis.

He said Iran is hypersensitive to probing by the U.S. and Britain at its borders and that they may be trying to make a statement to the countries to back off.
Sure looks like it to me.

To put this incident into even better context, with some understanding of the nature of disputed territorial waters, please see the extensive discussion from Craig Murray in this post.