This story -- concerning the British sailors (from the HMS Cornwall, seen in photo) being held in Iran -- comes to us from Shanghai:
IRAN escalated the drama over the 15 British sailors it seized in the Persian Gulf by announcing yesterday the captured seamen have admitted to straying into Iranian territorial waters.If all this is part of a slow rush to war, it's the slowest slow rush I've ever seen.
Iran's military moved the eight Royal Navy sailors and seven Royal Marines, at least one of who was a woman, to Tehran for questioning and said they confessed to illegally entering Iranian waters. Tehran described the incident as a "blatant aggression", The Associated Press reported.
The sailors had searched a merchant ship Friday morning when they and their two inflatable boats were intercepted by Iranian vessels near the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway, US and British officials said. The Iranians surrounded them and escorted them away at gunpoint.
Iran's top military official, Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, yesterday said the seized soldiers, who were taken to Tehran for questioning, "confessed to illegal entry" and an "aggression into the Islamic Republic of Iran's waters." Afshar did not say what would happen to the sailors.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying there will be no war, and I am not saying there will be no war based on flimsy pretext. But this does not appear to be the pretext they were looking for.
Britain appeared yesterday to be trying to keep the situation calm.Interestingly, this situation has a precedent in which cooler heads prevailed.
In London, Foreign Office undersecretary Lord Triesman spent more than an hour with the Iranian ambassador to London, Rasoul Movahedian, demanding the safe return of the 15 and seeking assurances of their welfare and consular access.
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and the Ministry of Defense said the troops were in Iraqi waters at the time they were picked up. Earlier this week, a senior British military official said Iran was paying local militia in southern Iraq to launch attacks on British forces serving in the region.
Friday's incident was not the first time Iran seized British troops in the same waterway. In June 2004, six British marines and two sailors were captured, then paraded blindfolded on Iranian television. They admitted they had entered Iranian waters illegally but were released unharmed after three days.And the new moon came and went without any stealth nuke bunker-busters landing on Natanz or anywhere else, so things could be worse.
That's not to say they won't get worse. But for now, we're still ok, I think.