Hostages seizure splits the UK from the US

DEBKAfile: A UK guarantee to stay permanently out of Iranian waters would exclude Britain from a Western military strike on Iran

This pledge in return for securing the release of 15 British sailors would also remove Britain from its tasks in securing the sea lanes to S. Iraq. DEBKAfile’s military sources: The statement by a senior British defense official Sunday, April 1 is fraught with broad implications: He said: “We are quite prepared to give the Iranians a guarantee that we would never knowingly enter their waters without their permission, now or in the future.”

1. One implication is that London is no longer solid in its position that the 15 sailors and marines seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval unit Friday, March 23, were taken from the Iraqi side of the divided Shatt al-Arab at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. “We are not apologizing, nor are we saying that we entered their waters in the first place,” said the official. “But it may offer a route out of the crisis.”

According to DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington and London, the British government had no choice but to give ground in its standoff with Iran after Western allied backing melted away. The UN Security Council invoked by Britain Friday, March 30, refused to deplore Iran’s conduct; and the European Union rejected London’s demand for an export boycott against Iran. But the unkindest cut of all came from Washington. It took President George W. Bush 10 days into the crisis, and frantic appeals from Downing Street, to affirm that the seized British crew had been taken from Iraqi water against the claim by Tehran.

“Iran must give back the hostages,” said Bush in his belated message of support. “They’re innocent, they did nothing wrong, and they were summarily plucked out of Iraqi water.”

Earlier on, Washington slapped down a deal to swap the 15 UK Navy personnel captured in the Gulf for five Iranians seized in Iraq. [and Washington wants Israel to offer 1500 terrorist prisoners for one Israeli hostage.]

The hostage crisis therefore places London and Washington, close strategic partners in the global war on terror and the Iraq war, at loggerheads as never before. The Blair government’s willingness to offer Iran a guarantee never to knowingly enter its waters is a blow to this partnership and American interests in the region. It means that Tony Blair is going off in his own direction, heading for negotiations with Tehran and a ransom deal for the 15 hostages that would potentially place British naval and marine strength on an exit course from the Shatt al-Arb. Only a month ago, the Royal Navy doubled its deployment in the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and Arabian Sea, to match the arrival of the US nuclear carrier Stennis and its naval, air and marine buildup.

The fruits plucked out of the sea with the British sailors could not be sweeter for Tehran. The British will have to ease out of the task they undertook to secure the sea routes to southern Iraq and its southern oil installations. This extra burden will devolve on the United States.

The guarantee never to enter Iranian waters will exclude Britain from any potential Western military action against Iran’s nuclear installation and further accelerate the British military pull-out from southern Iraq.

DEBKAfile’s Tehran sources report the radical Revolutionary Guards and president Mahmoud Ahmadnejad are celebrating their successes. By a single move, they have planted a wedge in the heart of the Western alliance ranged against Iran, helped boost crude to a six-month high, as well as humiliating Britain. Now, they are considering ways to capitalize on their success by follow-up coups.

April 2, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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  1. According to DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington and London, the British government had no choice but to give ground in its standoff with Iran after Western allied backing melted away. The UN Security Council invoked by Britain Friday, March 30, refused to deplore Iran’s conduct; and the European Union rejected London’s demand for an export boycott against Iran. But the unkindest cut of all came from Washington. It took President George W. Bush 10 days into the crisis, and frantic appeals from Downing Street, to affirm that the seized British crew had been taken from Iraqi water against the claim by Tehran.

    So long as the free world is divided and weak-willed, the jihadists will continue to be victorious.

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