Iranians Capture British Sailors (Again) 38

One of this blog’s finest hours came when I was able to point out that the British Navy personnel captured by Iran were quite possibly in Iranian waters, and that the British government had produced a fake boundary map with no legal basis to justify its claims.

Coming as it did in the middle of massive Jingoistic propaganda, even though my assertions were true to anybody who did five minute’s research, it gave me an uncomfortable week, but finally it was universally accepted that I was telling the truth.

But the current case of arrest by Iran of civilian yachtsmen is completely different. Civilian mariners have every right to transit through territorial seas. As with the last incident, complete ignorance of the Law of the Sea is making media coverage useless. The question is inot if

It is thought the vessel may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters, the Foreign Office said

Unlike military personnel boarding ships, civilian ships have every right to sail through anybody’s territorial waters, including Iran’s. The Right to Innocent Passage, subject to reasonable navigation safety regulations, is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. So the Iranians had absolutely no right to arrest these yachtsmen, whether they were in Iranian territorial waters or not.

It is a sign of the times that the Guardian does not know and is apparently incapable of researching this basic fact, That the same seems to be true of the Foreign Office is deeply disturbing.

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38 thoughts on “Iranians Capture British Sailors (Again)

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  • Justin

    Hi folks, with regards to sailboats, and particularly racing yachts, they pretty much ALL have motors of some sort. Many times the prop is retractable into the hull to negate the drag. The motors are for a couple of reasons. One being maneuverability in times of little wind, in port, etc. The second major reason for the motor is to charge batteries. There are a lot of electronics and communications equipment on these boats, quite a bit in fact. Full sat-com capabilities. Remember, this boat was sailed around the world and was in full communication the entire time, (I believe it was the last Volvo Ocean Race.)

    The motors themselves are required to be on board by the racing authorities, and when racing, usually the prop shaft is taped or otherwise has some way of being inspected if it has been used for propulsion.

    Pretty much the only vessels that are powered purely by sail, with no auxiliary engine on board, are historical replicas (and even those usually have one hidden somewhere,) or small sailing dinghies typically less than 20 ft.

    It is absurd that these sailors are being held. That area is actually pretty active for sailing, especially around Oman, Dubai, etc. My first thought was that they were simply sailing, (it’s impossible to sail directly INTO the wind, so the boat must travel at angles to the wind and tack back and forth, and thus may cross boundaries that are, to the sailors at the time, seemingly inconsequential.)

    I am a sailor and yacht designer / naval architect, and have lived aboard a 40ft sailboat for nearly 4 years,(just so you all know I’m not completely full of crap.)

  • ingo

    Selma, What are you trying to say? Are you suggesting that the people on board that yacht were spies or military personel? Why would british military or intellegence with all their sophisticated technology use a yacht to spy on Iran??? Also would it not be easier for them to cross over into Iran from Afghanistan or even Iraq where most of them are stationed??

    I agree, yachting spies in the middle of a race sounds far fetched and ludicrous.

    As for your other point of using the Iraq Iran border,Chris, that has been happening for some time, there is a massive budget for it and its not just the US special forces that are infiltrating and spending money to liven up age old rivalries between tribes, as well as supporting the opposition to the regime.

    That said, the crew should be returned and the foreign office should get their skates on and do something to get these two OAP’s released.

    I also have heard of that incident with the Israeli gunboat, they seem to break rules regarding territorial waters with impunity.

    Ahmadinedjad is unpopular with the majority now, he is on the way out in the long term, so the hate mongers who want to lob nukes at Iran are now reving up their anti Iran rethoric.

    Whe I first heard of the ten new enrichment plants I laughed, what a big joke, that wopuld take them two decades if they could afford it, a wind up.

    Those in the west who cannot see that Iran feels threatened by our belligerent sable rattling of the Gulf coast, are either blind, or unwilling to contemplate other countries security, which is naive and bullying.

    Shooting down civilian airliners on their way to Mecca, without any justice shown towards the victims, does not coerce one into trusting, who ever held these muders to account?

    With two US aircraft carriers, various destroyers and Frigattes, add to that a massive French Navy and Air force contingent, both armed with nuclear weapons, having bases in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and soon on the western side of Afghanistan, never mind what the Brits have there, there is a lot to worry about for a country that has seen what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, chaos murder and destruction.

    In the great scheme of things, civilians are not cared for, on any side, so what are we lamenting here? the demise of international diplomacy, decency and honesty?

    I’ll drink to that.

  • nextus

    Thanks, Justin. That technical info will constrain the conspiracy theories (for a while at least).

    I agree, Ingo, it looks doubtful that there was anything underhand about these hapless yachters. If there was any evidence on the yacht, I’m sure the Iranians would be keen to parade it because it would clearly justify the arrests. Otherwise, they’re just being paranoid – at best.

    I suppose paranoia is ‘understandable’ if you know the big boys really are out to get you.

    But if this turns out to be a deliberate Iranian PR stunt, or a symbolic act of aggression opportunistically portrayed as a defensive action, then the word “understandable” would be the rhetorical hallmark of a political sympathiser. Best to say “potentially understandable” in the absence of clear evidence.

    By default, I tend to trust Craig’s instincts on these matters, given his wealth of relevant experience in reading the signs. But I recognise it could go either way.

  • Justin

    I posted this comment under today’s story about the media, but there is more activity here instead. My comment is basically that Iran hasn’t signed on the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. Neither has the US (irrelevant to this discussion though.) As such, can they be held accountable for holding sailors that were in their territorial waters in direct contradiction to the UN Convention?

  • aletheia kallos

    yes certainly unclos nonsignatories are accountable for contradicting unclos innocent passage law as it is simply a codification of customary innocent passage law

  • Keith

    can you imagine what it would be like to be in iran’s shoes, with the very real threat of being the next iraq.

    “what would be the reaction of this government and its press” – indeed.

    And that’s not rubbish, craig, you moron. Perhaps you didnt read arsalan’s post correctly. he may have simply strung along a load of questions with the first one not fully explaining the gist of his point, but only a moron could have misunderstood if he read to the end.

    Did internment only begin when germany was on the french cost in 1940, would german sailing boats have been allowed anywhere near britains waters after poland was invaded.

    if britain was in irans shoes right now – what would be the reaction of this government and its press?

    theres no excuse or justification there, you cretin.

    thinking that this incident might be manufactured is not to say it is justified, you ignoramus.

    and theres such thing as ‘the left’, to join, you dickhead

  • Richard

    “Thanks, Justin. That technical info will constrain the conspiracy theories (for a while at least)”.

    Oh yeah, we wish. But thanks, anyway, it’s good to hear from people who actually know what they’re talking about. That’s why I come here, of course.

    But, most of the times, the comments do the blog no favours. With regard to the ‘lefties’ thing, all I can say is that one-dimensional politics are a boring, depressing, pain in the arse that does nobody any good. I suggest that the people who want to call Craig names over his comments should try to develop an interest in a football group, or a pop team, or something, some kind of area where the need to belong to something can be focussed into not doing very much harm. Or, claiming it as a religion would save the need to argue ?

    And, just to round it off before I retreat into lurking again, I think I ought to just agree that the previous naval incident was indeed one of the blog’s finest hours. I was most impressed by the way the whole noisy bubble collapsed, without any of the “experts” ever acknowledging that they’d read their (new) opinions here first. Hey, Craig, it _is_ worth it (in case you’re wondering / my opinion). Thanks.

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