Doin’ what Iran does best: taking hostages. The media I’ve looked at all have the same details thus far: 15 sailors in two inflatable boats from the HMS Cornwall were inspecting merchant ships when they were surrounded by Iranian ships and detained — at gunpoint. An Iraqi fisherman says he saw it all go down. The Royal Navy insists the craft were in Iraqi waters at the time. Britain’s FM has summoned the Iranian ambassador; the sailors are believed to be at an Iranian navy base.
I love this from the Beeb article. They can’t kidnap our sailors — we have a resolution from the UN!
In a statement, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Menzies Campbell, also called for their immediate release.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of military action, British forces in Iraq are now there with the authority of a UN security council resolution… and the Iranian government should be left in no doubt of the serious implications of their action,” he said.
I figure they’ll be released soon and the incident will be dismissed as a misunderstanding. Iran can’t have meant to do this, not with Ahmadinejad set to address the Security Council tomorrow about the nuclear program and not to the British, who’ve been adamant in opposing any military action on Iran.
I’ll keep an eye on it. In the meantime, have a look at what happened to the last British sailors who were captured by Iran, in 2004. Click the image to watch.
Update: CNN nabbed an interview with the Cornwall’s commander:
Nick Lambert, commander of the HMS Cornwall — the frigate from which the British patrol had been deployed — said a Royal Navy backup helicopter witnessed the incident…
He said the captain of the merchant vessel had been cleared to proceed and the two British inflatable patrol boats were readying for departure when they were surrounded by the Iranian navy and taken into Iranian waters.
A U.S. military official who monitors the region told CNN that the seizure was made after a dispute over whether the British patrol was in Iraqi, international, or Iranian territorial waters.
Update: A reporter for an Iranian state-run newspaper confirms that the sailors were captured but claims they were in Iranian waters. Iran TV isn’t reporting it yet, though.
Update: The Iranian navy started wargames in the Gulf yesterday. Maybe someone got their signals crossed?
Update: The visa must have arrived because Drudge says Ahmadinejad’s made his flight plans.
Update: U.S. officials are telling Fox News Ahmadinejad will not attend the Security Council meeting tomorrow because — so he says — he never got his visa. As of a few hours ago, the passport was in transit. I can’t believe a bureaucratic snafu could actually have happened here; either he’s looking to back out, probably because of the hostage situation, or both sides have agreed that it’s better he not attend and this is the cover story. Standby for more.