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The offside rule took on a new dimension almost two weeks ago when Iran arrested fifteen naval service personnel of the British Royal Navy. There are currently fourteen servicemen and one woman in Iranian custody. The reason for the arrests was given as “Trespass”, the Iranians maintain that the two inflatables carrying the arrested personnel strayed into Iranian waters in much the same way as the Iranian navy has for the past four years persistently used Iraqi waters for its own purposes but no action was ever taken. It is not the first time that the over zealous actions of the Iranian navy has arrogantly overstepped the boundaries of international law, there have been incidents involving the blatant abduction of British Naval ratings in the past. In 2004 not far from the same watery spot eight marines were arrested and in much the same way were paraded blindfold upon Iranian TV with a clear threat to their safety. They were said to be “Engaged upon acts of espionage and terrorism” a claim to which Iran could lay better claim than any power presently in the Persian Gulf. Their mission then as it is now is a police action to rectify the myopic indifference Iran has practised for many years. The smuggling of arms, explosives, consumer goods and contraband is not only a very lucrative criminal activity but also a deniable means for the Iranian government to fuel the insurgency in Iraq.
The current arrests are dubious in intent and fool no one, Iran is becoming increasingly isolated from a diplomatic world that has little time for their attempts to destabilise the region for their own gain. The arrests are an act of terrorism sponsored by a state that cannot accept that the world it occupies will not allow it to develop a nuclear capability. Neither will that same world allow Iran to supply arms to the Palestinian cause, as it has been for many years together with Syria its partner in the conspiracy.

The immediate theory surrounding the arrests was that Iran was about to use the lives of the British service personnel as a bargaining chip to influence the decision of the UN to impose sanctions on Iran if it did not terminate its research into the development of nuclear weapons but the “Hostages” as George Bush called them are insufficient to alter the outcome of the UN deliberations because they are weighing the lives of fifteen against the millions at risk if Iran should succeed in producing a viable weapon. That unequal trade off makes the pawns seized in their latest act of desperation ineffectual.

In January 2007 five members of the Iranian military intelligence service were arrested and detained by US forces inside Iraq, they were actively engaged upon the promotion of terrorist activity inside Iraq. The Iranian government have been trying to secure their release ever since though they still deny the true intent of the five Iranians. Britain and the USA are strong allies in the Iraqi theatre, is it possible that the Iranians envisage an exchange of prisoners? If so it is a deviation from the conditions such clandestine operators normally accept as part of the assignment. Normally the Governments that “Own” such assets deny their very existence so why is it different this time. Could it be that these particular assets have information that would expose the true intent of their government? The US view must surely be that they do and for that reason are more likely to detain them further. The pressure they would have the British government exert to seduce the US government to release such operatives would seem to diminish when weighed against the political advantages of their detention.
The possibility of a military action against Iran came that much nearer to reality this week as it was reported in “Ria Novosti” in Moscow that the Pentagon had been planning to attack Iran for some time and the plan of attack was being finalised. Russia and the USA are two of the parties at pains to resolve the nuclear ambitions of Iran but whereas Russia favours a diplomatic approach the USA has little faith in the outcome of the negotiations and is preparing for a more direct action involving the destruction of Iranian industry and its nuclear targets. The plans are not unknown to Iran and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the capture of the Naval personnel are designed to force Britain to influence the intent of its ally the US.

Clearly, the ploy of arresting the fifteen is not working well for the Iranians. They have now forced “Confessions” of intent from the Naval detainees that curiously fit with their own paranoia so neatly that everyone involve could be reading from the same script. The naval personnel have been taking a starring role on Iranian TV and each is said to have “Confessed” to the charges brought by the Iranians but when faced with a gun “They would say that wouldn’t they?” to quote Mandy Rice-Davies.
The “Stars” maintain they have been well treated but if they had what are they doing on television. In every episode of this government-sponsored farce the only woman captured is always shown even when she has no lines to read. Why is that? The words coming from the mouths of the captives is obviously stage-managed and directed but the body language betrays the truth of the words spoken as in every case the subject is constantly seeking the approval of an unseen mentor. If this production was meant to convince the Iranian public that its government was right then it has probably worked, if it was meant to convince the UK public they are right then it has failed miserably

It is of some significance that members of The Revolutionary Guard affected the arrest of 8 marines in these same waters in 2004 because it was that same unit that made the arrest of the fifteen on detachment from the Type 22 frigate Cornwall on this occasion. The Revolutionary Guard owes its allegiance to the cleric Ayatollah
Khamenei and not to Mahmoud Ahmandinejad the Iranian President and mouthpiece for policy formulated elsewhere. The Guard had sworn “Retaliation” for the detention of their officers in Iraq. Two of which were deported and expelled for financing terrorist activity within Iraq and five more that were training, planning attacks and supplying arms directly to the insurgents that are still being questioned by the US in Iraq.

This was clearly entrapment by The Revolutionary Guard with the full knowledge of the higher echelons of the Iranian government who have incited their population by rhetoric and omission to demonstrate openly demanding not only the trial of those falsely accused but also the death penalty, not that they are prejudging the issue in any way before any proceedings have taken place but that is perhaps an indication of Iranian justice.

The administration is much more “Hard-Line” in Iran than it has been in the past and therefore unable to admit any mistake made by its over-zealous forces seeking retribution for the capture and censure of its intelligence services but if Iran is to prevent the sanctions it is now enduring from becoming intolerable some concession to a reasonable conclusion will have to be made. However the sanctions if they are applied with a greater determination may delay any action that is now being considered by the Pentagon. The ball, far from being within the reach of the UK government is being kicked by Iran who have sprung the offside trap but were seen doing it. No amount of counterclaim will change that and it is time to admit their failure and continue the play from which they may, if they posses any skilful diplomats that do not believe that all Ayatollah’s in Iran and any one in particular can “Walk upon water” should be able to conclude this episode which will very possibly result in a nil nil draw.It Is now the Iranian New Year,perhaps a time for a new resoloution that discards a time for Retribution that is so plainly transparent.


Posted: April 3, 2007 

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