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March 30, 2007

What if we were in Iranian waters?

I probably won’t make myself popular for saying this… But what if the British sailors were in Iranian waters?

I’ve been troubled by some of the Foreign Office language, which is vague enough to leave room for admitting they were wrong. For instance, we’ve heard about the exact spot where the sailors were captured. But we’ve not been shown the line that they took before that. What if they accidentally went into Iranian waters, then returned to Iraqi waters, and were then captured. Essentially, both the British and the Iranians would be in the wrong. The Britons for having been in Iranian waters, and the Iranians for having gone into Iraqi waters to detain them.

If what we’ve heard is true, the Iranians were in the wrong because they should have shepherded the sailors out of their waters – there is no need for them to have been detained under maritime law.

Compare a British news report with one on an international news website. There is often a subtle difference in language. The British media take MoD statements as fact, while there’s more emphasis on ”...the MoD claim that the sailors were in Iraqi waters…” in international reporting.

My concern is that we’re only hearing half of the story. This is largely because the Iranian regime is disfunctional, secretive and has a lot to hide. But I wonder whether the vacuum of information from the other side means that we’re getting information which isn’t as high-quality as we’re led to believe.

Would our media ever decide something the Iranians said was correct and that something the MoD said was incorrect? It seems very unlikely.

We, understandably, want our sailors back. The MoD, understandably, would never want to admit that they made a mistake in relation to Iran. Foreign relations are too sensitive to give them any ground on such an international stage.

And the Iranians have, for sure, acted wrongly by detaining the fifteen, putting two of them on television, making them read admissions of guilt and denying consular access.

But what if we did cock up? Would we ever find out the truth?


January 08, 2007

Splits emerge over a 'troop surge' in Iraq

The 82nd Airborne Division, on their way to Kuwait. (c) Getty Images

America looks set to go it alone in its widely-anticipated “troop surge” in Iraq. An extra 20,000 U.S. soldiers will be sent to the country to ‘finish the job’ and build a longer-lasting peace.

But Britain and other (notably miniscule) members of the coalition don’t intend to follow suit. It’s widely agreed that British forces have been having more success than the Americans, using a cautious, softer approach in trying to win over ‘hearts and minds’. President Bush’s advisors seem to believe they can achieve the same ends through very different means.

Perhaps this is the only option open to the United States. Its forces are hardly renowned for their peacekeeping skills, so a surgical strike may be their own possible plan.

But there’s been criticism of the plan in Congress. The Democrat-led Senate is considering blocking funding for the surge, and a number of Republicans have spoken out against it too.

And with Britain looking to reduce its commitment during 2007, it appears few people have faith in the ‘surge’ as an effective method of bringing peace to Iraq.


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