Thursday, April 5, 2007

Captured British Sailors Return Home From Iran

The island nation celebrates the news contained in this account from the Guardian:

Captured British sailors arrive home
The 15 British sailors and marines freed by Iran are back on British soil today after 13 days in captivity.

The 14 men and one woman left Tehran on a British Airways flight this morning and touched down at London's Heathrow airport at 12.02pm.

They travelled in business class and were flying on in waiting helicopters to the Royal Marines Base Chivenor, near Barnstaple, north Devon.

Escorted to the airport by Iranian revolutionary guards, the Britons were installed in business class, with the few paying passengers in that section shunted into economy.

In a final PR flourish by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who announced their release yesterday at the end of a 90-minute monologue on regional history and global politics, the captives were handed gifts from the Iranian president as they left.
There's more on this "flourish" from Pakistan's news service Dawn:
Iran tv shows British sailors laden with gifts

Iran broadcast new pictures of 15 British sailors preparing to fly out of Tehran on Thursday, showing them opening an array of traditional gifts before departing.

The 14 men and one woman smiled and laughed as they sipped tea and waited to board their plane in the plush surroudings of the presidential lounge at Tehran's international airport. The pictures aired on Iran's Arabic language channel Al-Alam showed the sailors opening gifts that ranged from traditional handicrafts to Iranian pistachio nuts. Their luggage, packed into a combination of matching traditional Iranian woven bags and sports holdalls laid on by the authorities, was also shown.
This is the only event in the series that makes perfect sense, but it still leaves us with a barrel full of questions:

Did the British stray into Iranian waters? If so, did they do so intentionally? Were their commanders looking to establish a pretext? If so, the effort appears to have failed.

Or did they simply make a mistake?

Or did the Iranians "reach out and touch someone" in Iraqi waters? And if so, what was the point?

Did Craig Murray's intrepid work, promoting the truth about a disputed international boundary -- in the face of hostile opposition -- play a part in freeing the captured British sailors?

And has the Iranian president's "PR flourish" -- indeed the timely release itself -- knocked the teeth out of Operation BITE? And did they use my idea? Or did they think of it themselves? We may never know.

Things are now potentially set up for a much better Good Friday than I was expecting. But I can't shake the feeling that we are still being led on a long, slow march to a long and horrible war with Iran.