Friday, March 30, 2007

Brinkmanship in the Persian Gulf

Seminal Words of Wisdom which can untie this knot.

Let me turn first to the last honest British statesman, well versed in both the Middle East and maritime matters, who is worthy of trust. That is Craig Murray, who is:
  • former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan (until he was cashiered for openly objecting to United Kingdom and U.S. support for torture there)
  • former head of the maritime section of the British Foreign Office
  • has considerable experience negotiating disputes over borders extending into the sea.
On his blog, Ambassador Murray says, Both Sides Must Stop This Mad Confrontation, Now!
There is no agreed maritime boundary between Iraq and Iran in the Persian Gulf. Until the current mad propaganda exercise of the last week, nobody would have found that in the least a controversial statement.
Murray cites the words of Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Lockwood. He is the Commander of the Combined Task Force in the Northern Persian Gulf as published in Stars and Stripes magazine, (October 24 2006):
Bumping into the Iranians can’t be helped in the northern Persian Gulf, where the lines between Iraqi and Iranian territorial water are blurred.

No maritime border has been agreed upon by the two countries.
Both sides are gaming this crisis which was, in one form or another, inevitable. The Iranians want to bargain to break out of their American-imposed isolation. Tony Blair doesn't want to let his master (George Bush) down. Therefore, instead of trying to solve the problem of getting Her Majesty's 15 sailors back, Downing Street is gaming for regime change.

Let's look at another quotation. This one is from the formal note from the Iranian government sent to the British embassy, the text of which was later released by the Iranian embassy in London. After asserting that two British vessels had "trespassed", it continues:
Since similar acts had taken place in the past and prior warning had been given against the repetition of such acts, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran protests strongly against this illegal act in violating Iranian territorial waters, emphasizes the respect for the rules and principles of international law concerning the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, underlines the responsibility of the British Government for the consequences of such violation, and calls for the guarantee to avoid the recurrence of such acts.

It will be appreciated if the esteemed embassy conveys this note to the relevant authorities of its government and informs this ministry of any explanation in this regard.
Regular readers of these pages are sophisticated enough not to need my boldfacing which I have supplied for the benefit of newbies. Yes, the first thing that should stand out is that the British have retained the quaint practice left over from the 20th century: diplomacy. They not only have an embassy in Tehran, they allow Iranians to have an embassy in London.

The second thing that stands out, of course, is that the Iranians do not appear to be asking for an apology, so much as an explanation and a commitment against reoccurrence. The latter, of course, would require Anglo-Iranian military communication and cooperation in the theater of operations; which would, obviously, require further diplomacy.

As I boldfaced earlier in this piece, there is an air of inevitability in this situation: our mislead Anglo-American alliance has foundered in between I-Wreck and I-Ruin. As long as we stagger along in this endless occupation of Iraq, oblivious of the ticking and tocking of the bad-luck clock, we are risking the calamity of yet one more war which war-starter Bush cannot justify or finish before his time is up.

And the longer we stay the course, the more isolated and alone America will find herself. Which brings me to the last quote of the day. Listen to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah who surprised Washington on Wednesday by telling the Arab League summit in Riyadh:
In beloved Iraq, blood flows between brothers in the shadow of illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism, threatening a civil war.
On Thursday, the Saudi government stood by the king’s remarks. Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told a news conference at the end of the summit:
Did (Iraq) choose to have these forces? Had this been the case, it would have been a different matter. Any military intervention that is not at the request of the country concerned is the definition of occupation.
All of the foregoing forces me back to a conclusion which I have put forward before. The road out of Iraq must first be routed through Washington; the goal of regime change was misdirected and must first be corrected before anything can be accomplished.


  1. As born again puppets, Bush and Blair are on the same page. They both worship the same sick god that brought Tony to his knees in the Church of England, and Bush in some bible study of crazies.
    Both of these insane figures are cow-towing to Israel. They accept that 'gods chosen people' must be protected from any suspected potential enemy`s. These two are also front men and stooges for globalism/corporate control.
    In other words they are pawns for the paper pushers of world banking.
    That system does not like the Iranians. They consider them to be a threat to Israel.
    Any one care to make two guess`s as to what is going to happen next.?
    Our thug/fraud system run by organized crime in the form of Politics and Religion are playing this out.
    Disaster follows and will follow even more.
    Oil profits for special interest, and a satisfying thwack ! of punishment that the religious crackpots are going to deliver, just like the biblical patriarchs ordered the slaughter of those with different belief systems.
    Bush should have been removed several years ago. We have exactly the leader we deserve here. Someone who reflects the profound passiveness and dumbed down mentality of the American people.
    Hello Suckers.

  2. Les AuCoin, retired Congressman from Oregon, suggested on his blog yesterday that the Brits' operation in disputed waters may have been intended to support US forces that are already operating covertly inside Iran.

  3. There are so many overlays in our relations with Iran, especially historical (144 hostages during Carter's presidency). But another self-generating overlay with complicates relations with Iran is the Israeli/Palestine problem. That's what drives the problem with Iranian nuclear proliferation. Were it not for Israel pissing everyone in the Middle East off, Iranians' nuclear club membership would not be any more of an issue than the Indians' or Pakistani membership. Indeed, Iranians might not see any need to pursue nuclear weapons.

  4. Vigilante,

    I have a strong suspicion that at the end of the day, it's the Russians who stand to benefit from all these problems with Iran.

    Good input on Craig Murray there.

    He's very right about UNCLOS: when there is no clear demarcation line, nations should be cautious.

    Btw, classic easy sea exercise is to push a smaller boat off course; the two much smaller RN rubber boats must have been pushed by the 6 Iran Rev Guards boats starboard and off to the Iran side of the waters.

  5. Is this here a theory? Iranians grab the U.K. Sailors to accuse them of espionage to set up a trade for the five Iranians the U.S. has captured and accused as 'spies'?
    US Rejects Iran Captives Exchange

  6. Bush Diplomacy is summed up at TomDispatch: "not worth a 'sou'"; Rumsfeld left the State Department in Kuwait; everyone wanted to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.

  7. Iran is much more advanced than Iraq - militarily and technologically - and they won't be pushed around by Bush.

    Diplomacy is absolutely necessary. If Blair wants to salvage his reputation, he will bring this to a satisfactory, anti-Bush conclusion.

    The Saudi response is another sign that the Bush ship o' state is sinking like a stone. The whole world knows it. The only people who don't know it are Cheney, Bush and their little neocon kabal.

  8. I like what m.d. said about Bush's ship-of-state sinking in relation to what the Saudis had to say recently about the occupation of Iraq. If the Saudis turn against Bush for all the pain he has brought to their Sunni kin-folk could it be that for all of Bush's bluster and saber rattling might his time in office end with a continuing sad whimper in Iraq instead of a Armageddon-like bang by attacking Iran?

  9. Washington hurting British bid to free crew

    The Iranian prisoner crisis revealed a widening schism between Britain and the United States Sunday as U.S. leaders called for tough action and British officials confirmed that they are trying to free their 15 imprisoned sailors by quietly reaching a compromise with Tehran.

  10. Speaker Nancy Pelosi's fact-finding trip to Syria, in defiance of George W. Bush, highlights his administration's abdication of diplomacy and is a symptom of incremental, piecemeal de facto impeachment as opposed to de jure impeachment.

  11. Interestingly, Iranian diplomat 'freed in Iraq'

    An Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq in February has been freed, Iran's official news agency, Irna,

    Iranian officials had previously blamed the US for the abduction, saying Jalal Sharafi was taken by an Iraqi army unit that worked closely with the Americans.

    US officials denied any involvement in the kidnapping and said they did not know about the diplomat's release.

  12. Good analytical piece by Robert Fox in The First Post, simple but spot on:

    Gulf 15 have come up with a cunning plan

  13. Hills, we need a name for this plan. How about Iraq-Contra?

  14. "Iranians might not see any need to pursue nuclear weapons." I don't agreee. Everything does not begin and end with Israel. The region had shown signs of regression well before the State of Israel. If not Israel, something else would have been the excuse.

    The irony of course is that the Arab world is happy Hussein is gone. In another time, Iran could have been taken out. None of these socieities have the resources, armies or tactics to engage in war. It's all a facade. That said, America must ENGAGE in diplomacy with the thugs of Iran. I agree. They can't afford another war. They are caught in the middle of a civil war right now. As for Pelosi, Machiavelli is spinning in his grave. The Arabs will make fatouch out of her. No wisdom there.

    Back to my pancakes.

  15. Commentator, I don't know what you are putting into your pancakes.

    But with Israel rumored (reliably) to be sitting on a stockpile of 100 nuclear warheads as well as being the target of unremitting regional hostility of Islamic peoples, it has to figure as one of the major motivations for Iran joining the nuclear club.

    "Everything does not begin and end with Israel," as you say. But, with Israel's long-term goal of squeezing Palestinian lands such that no integral nation-state can ever be founded on their remaining scraps of turf. This situation controls Middle Eastern polarization, pure and simple. It is the alpha and zeta the Middle East.

    As far as Pelosi is concerned, your point is well taken, but obvious: she is an amateur at diplomacy. Her part in this week's news is to dramatize Bush's fumbling and bungling of his diplomatic function. Bush is just as much an amateur as Pelosi is; the difference is that a President Pelosi would turn loose the State Department and the CIA and let them do their work. And restrict the Pentagon to its role of national defense. It is after all, in the Department of Defense. We do not, as yet, have a department of offense.

    (Sorry, Messenger. I got tired of waiting for you to respond.)

  16. ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran

    A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

    The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

  17. pdate on RN 15 release: Buried in mile-long report in The Independent: Aboard Air Force One, US President George Bush's national security spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said Bush "welcomes the news."

    Poor lil Bush feeling not too big, eh?

  18. As I said yesterday on Paws, if I were in Iran's position, taking the British sailors would have been a heads-up "Speak to us. We have five men in U.S. custody in Iraq." Just as I thought, both Blair and Bush have returned to their belligerent replies-by-photo-op. They wouldn't know daylight if they saw it.

  19. Backing up, I.P. (above): Brian Ross (ABC News) has broken this story about the Jundullah.

  20. This one clip is longer, better: Jundullah, again.

  21. According to the Guardian, Pentagon officials offered the U.K. a series of military options all of which are classified.

    The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. London also asked the US to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf.

  22. Let's just be grateful the British sailors - our allies - weren't treated according to Marquis de Abu Grabe principles.

  23. Martin Sieff, United Press International:

    U.S. policymakers are now making what may prove to be their worst mistake yet: They may be on a new collision course with Moqtada al-Sadr.

    A U.S. strike against Iran may set up a Dien Bien Phu situation in Iraq for the United States.