British map in Iran crisis ‘inaccurate’ 4


From news.com.au

A BRITISH map of the northern Gulf where Iran seized 15 naval personnel in March was not as accurate as it should have been and Britain was fortunate Iran did not contest it, a review into the crisis said.

The parliamentary report also said Britain’s Foreign Office should name the person who let two sailors sell their stories to the media, a decision widely criticised for handing a propaganda coup to Britain’s enemies and embarrassing serving troops. The report by the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) said the Foreign Office’s overall approach could not be faulted, but it said efforts should have been made to contact key Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani sooner.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized 15 British personnel in the northern Gulf in March sparking a 13-day standoff that ended when Iran’s President freed them, a day after Larijani spoke to a senior adviser to then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, is regarded as a pragmatist more amenable to exploring a bargain with the West than hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Britain first applied to speak to Mr Larijani seven days into the crisis. Britain insists the personnel were in Iraqi territorial waters on a UN-backed mission when they were seized. Iran says the British sailors had strayed into its territory.

A British Ministry of Defence map published during the crisis showed a territorial water boundary extending from the Shatt al-Arab waterway that separates Iran and Iraq out to sea. However experts say no maritime boundary between the two countries has been agreed and the line was based on a 1975 land boundary that could have shifted over time if the centre of the waterway had moved due to natural causes.

‘We conclude that there is evidence to suggest that the map of the Shatt al-Arab waterway provided by the Government was less clear than it ought to have been,’ the report said.

‘The Government was fortunate that it was not in Iran’s interests to contest the accuracy of the map.’

‘Uncertainties’

Britain and Iran provided different coordinates for the location of the capture. The report did not make a definitive conclusion on the accuracy of the map or whether the sailors were in Iraqi or Iranian waters.

It quoted Martin Pratt, director of research at the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University, as saying that if the British coordinates were correct, it was difficult to see how Iran’s claim could be legitimate.

‘Nevertheless, there are sufficient uncertainties over boundary definition in the area to make it inadvisable to state categorically that the vessel was in Iraqi waters,’ he was quoted as saying.

He said the map was ‘certainly an oversimplification’ and could be regarded as ‘deliberately misleading’.

The Foreign Office said it was pleased the report praised its overall approach. It was considering some recommendations and leaving others for the Ministry of Defence to address. The Ministry of Defence also said it would study the report.

Compiled by members of parliament, the report said it was ‘wholly unsatisfactory’ that a previous report into the affair had been unable to say who was responsible for authorising payment for the stories of the personnel after they were freed.

‘We recommend … the (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) set out who specifically took the decision to authorise the naval personnel to sell their stories to the media,’ it said.

See also:

Fake Maritime Boundaries

Iraq/Iran Maritime Boundaries

Location location…


4 thoughts on “British map in Iran crisis ‘inaccurate’

  • johnf

    I'm shocked. I'm truly deeply devastatingly shocked. You mean Tony Blair was lying? My world is falling in on me, the china on the mantlepiece is rattling, the beams above my head are starting to lurch and judder.

  • 33cl

    Funny how the Brits & Americans use the UN when it suits them. I'm actually beginning to agree with the neocons that it's a useless organisation but not for the reasons they believe. I don't care what the UN says, Iraq is under full military occupation by foreign powers. Iran has every right to defend itself from these aggressive imperialists.

  • ChoamNomsky

    "I'm actually beginning to agree with the neocons that it's a useless organisation but not for the reasons they believe."

    Well the only real power at the UN is the entirely undemocratic Security Council. UN inaction largely comes from one or more permanent members (usually the US) Vetoing resolutions. Since 1984 the US has been far in the lead in it's use of the veto.

    It was the threat of Veto by the US and France that lead to inaction over Rwanda. If you really want to reform the UN, you have to make it democratic and abolish the Veto. Why should a washed up old imperial power like the UK have more say than India, the largest democracy in the world? It's quite ridiculous.

  • smashton

    It quoted Martin Pratt, director of research at the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University, as saying that if the British coordinates were correct, it was difficult to see how Iran's claim could be legitimate.

    The MoD have been very carefull to contruct the ruse that the important position was that of the anchored Indian vessel – they even knocked up computer generated graphics showing the boarding parties at the merchant vessel being intecepted by the Iranian patrol, this was loyally presented by the BBC and others. But of course the charge levelled at the crews was that their seaboats entered into Iranian waters – in short so what if the Indian flagged vessel was in Iraqi waters? what is important is what route the seaboats crew took to it and what route they took when they left. In fact a quick glance at the navigational charts (yes, thats charts not "maps") that Iran produced reveals various plotted postions from a course that the RiBs took that are clearly within charted Iranian territory – no accusations about an anchored vessel; its only the UK evidence that constantly goes on about the merchant vessel – its a subterfuge.

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