Iran Looming War Manufactured by Britain
British Manufactured Gulf Maritime Border Map. No such agreed upon border between Iraq and Iran exists, measurements show ship was nearer Iranian coast
In claiming HMS Cornwall was within Iraqi territorial waters, the British government and the media have covered-up the fact there is no agreed upon Iraqi-Iranian maritime border, as other bizarre coincidences and dubious circumstances surrounding the hostage crisis begin to emerge.
Former British Ambassador Craig Murray and others are highlighting the fact that the maritime border between Iraq and Iran is contested, and the British have essentially manufactured a border to make it appear as if HMS Cornwall was within Iraqi territorial waters. The mainstream media has uniformly failed to address this issue.
"The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force," claims Murray.
"Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one."
As illustrated in the Encarta encyclopedia territorial map above, the position of the ship denoted by the red circle is nearer the Iranian border than the Iraq border. The blue circumference touches the edge of the Iranian border.
As the Moon of Alabama blog points out, "That boundary is simply not well defined and Iran and Iraq have fought several wars about the Shatt al-Arab and its waterways. There is no binding or otherwise recognized international agreement about the maritime boundaries."
"If one would use a maritime boundary defined by equidistance from the Iraqi and Iranian coastlines, as is commonly (see Art.7) done in such cases, the result would be something like this purple line."
As becomes obvious from looking at the map, taking the equidistant measurement from the Iraqi and Iranian coastlines, the ship is clearly within Iranian territory.
Iranian news source IRNA claims that this represents Britain's sixth violation and trespass of Iranian territory in the last three years, while also stating that the western media has been complicit in "a wave of propaganda campaign against Iran immediately after Iranian border guards arrested British marines."
Even if you dismiss judging territorial water boundaries by the method detailed above, the fact is that the media parroted carte blanche the British government's version, without even pointing out that there is no recognized and agreed upon Gulf water boundary between Iraq and Iran.
Other highly suspicious circumstances surrounding the hostage crisis have also begun to emerge.
During a BBC Newsnight feature story, it was demonstrated that the Iranian footage of the capture of the British sailors was in large part likely faked and the commentators all but suggested the entire incident was staged or at least constituted "gross negligence" on behalf of the British.
Readers have also pointed out the bizarre coincidence of the fact that immediately before the sailors were captured, they were being accompanied by a BBC film crew onboard HMS Cornwall, who filmed a human interest interview with Faye Turney, who has become the poster child of the whole crisis. The interview was broadcast immediately after the sailors were taken hostage and portrayed Turney in a very humanizing light, with pictures of her loved ones in the background.With the crisis deepening and tensions being ratcheted up by the bellicose rhetoric of both Blair and the Iranians, this Gulf of Tonkin style incident is starting to look increasingly dubious as the drumbeat for war grows ever louder.
Brits in the Gulf and a Doctored British Map - UPDATED
Former British Ambassador Craig Murray is now challenging the legitimacy of the map just published by the British government in the current dispute with Iran over those 15 captured British sailors and marines.
"Fake Maritime Boundaries
I have been unpopular before, but the level of threats since I started blogging on the captured marines has got a bit scary.
It is therefore with some trepidation that I feel obliged to point this out.
"The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.
"But there are two colossal problems.
"A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.
"B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.
"None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden the Iranian position."
When I spoke with the former Ambassador he told me how dumbfounded he is by the way in which the mainstream media continues to treat this dispute.
The BBC for instance has already interviewed a supposed expert regarding the map, who vouched for its authenticity. But the point is, as Craig Murray, points out, how can such a map exist if the subject of boundaries has never been settled between Iraq and Iran? Turns out the expert had been referred to the BBC by the British Ministry of Defense--who also turned out the plan.
Sounds like the rerun of a bad movie we've already seen.
Barry Lando is the author of WEB OF DECEIT: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, just published by Other Press. Born in Canada and educated at Harvard and Columbia, Lando was a correspondent for Time-Life before becoming a producer for 60 Minutes, where he worked for twenty five years. He has won several top journalism awards, including two Emmys, a Dupont and a George Polk. Aside from producing more than a hundred reports for 60 Minutes, he also reported and produced an hour long documentary in 2004 for France’s Canal+ on Saddam Hussein, a documentary which was then rebroadcast in several countries around the globe. He has written extensively for such publications as The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, and Salon. He currently lives in Paris.
The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.
But there are two colossal problems.
A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.
B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.
None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden the Iranian position.
Tony Blair has let it be known that he is "utterly confident" that the British personnel were in Iraqi waters. He has of course never been known for his expertise in the Law of the Sea. But let us contrast this political certainty with the actual knowledge of the Royal Navy Commander of the operation on which the captives were taken.
Before the spin doctors could get to him, Commodore Lambert said:
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may well claim that they were in their territorial waters. The extent and definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated".
That is precisely right. The boundary between Iran and Iraq in the northern Persian Gulf has never been fixed. (Within the Shatt-al-Arab itself a line was fixed, but was to be updated every ten years because the waterway shifts, according to the treaty. As it has not been updated in over twenty years, whether it is still valid is a moot point. But it appears this incident occurred well south of the Shatt anyway.) This is a perfectly legitimate dispute. The existence of this dispute will clearly be indicated on HMS Cornwall's charts, which are in front of Commodore Lambert, but not of Mr Blair.
Until a boundary is agreed, you could only be certain that the personnel were in Iraqi territorial waters if they were within twelve miles of the coast and, at the same time, more than twelve miles from any island, spit, bar or sandbank claimed by Iran (or Kuwait).
That is very hard to judge as the British government refuse to give out the coordinates where the men were captured. If they really are utterly certain, I find that incomprehensible. Everyone knows the Gulf is teeming with British vessels and personnel, so the position of units a few days ago can hardly be valuable intelligence.
Until a boundary is set, it is not easy to posit where it should be. It has to be done by negotiation or arbitration. I have participated in these negotiations, for example on the boundary between the Channel Islands and France.
With a dead straight coastline with no islands, and a dead straight border between two countries hitting the coast at a right angle, you could have a straight maritime border between the two running out from the coast at a right angle. This never happens.
In practice, you agree a series of triangulation points on both coastlines and do a geometric triangulation exercise to find a line running out from the coast. Coasts of course can be very odd shapes. Draw an imaginary coast and border on a bit of paper and try it yourself. You will soon see why the rules permit you to take into account the general trend of the coastline, and even the angle of the land border. Those are not problems of geometry but old fashioned horse trading.
First, of course, both sides will argue about which triangulation points on the coast to accept. You are allowed, for example, to draw a line across a bay entrance and use that as the coast, but there is plenty of room for the other side to argue over where that line is drawn.
That is only the start. For territorial seas (but not the 200 mile exclusive economic zone) uninhabited rocks and sandbanks count. Again huge room for argument here - the ownership of a useless sandbank is not necessarily a settled thing. Sticking your triangulation point on a sandbank twelve miles out can make a huge difference.
Then it really gets complex. What if the sandbank only appears at low tide? What if it is dry all day, but only at certain times of the year? What if it is prone to move about a bit?
You haggle like mad over this. "You can't have that sandbank unless we have this one plus this spit." You also then get into weighting. "That bit of land is only around half the time, so we'll give it one third weighting" - in other words we will allow 33.3% more sea than you would get if it didn't exist and we just used a point on the coast.
Massive volumes have been written on the prinicples behind these negotiations, but they tend to ignore the fact that ultimately it has to come down to political negotiating skills between a vast range of justifiable possible agreements. That is why we just can't know where the boundary is between Iran and Iraq in this area, which has enough sandbanks to keep me happy thinking about it for centuries. If either side needs a negotiator...
Anyway, the UK was plainly wrong to be ultra provocative in disputed waters. They would be allowed to enter Iranian territorial seas in hot pursuit of terrorists, pirates or slavers, but not to carry out other military operations.
The Iranians had a right to detain the men if they were in seas legitimately claimed as territorial by Iran. Indeed, it is arguable that if a government makes a claim of sovereignty it rather has to enforce it, possession being nine parts of international law. But now the Iranian government is being very foolish, and itself acting illegally, by not releasing the men having made its point.
The story leaked by Russian intelligence claiming knowledge of US plans to attack Iran on 6 April has had great publicity in Iran, if very little here. Personally I doubt it is true. But it seems to me a definite risk that the Iranians will decide to keep the marines against that contingency.
That would be very unfortunate. The Iranian government, by continuing to hold the British personnel, are foolishly providing new impetus to Bush and Blair, whose attempts to bang the war drum against Iran have so far met profound public scepticism. We don't need any more oil wars.
If Blair actually sought the release of our people, rather than anti-Iranian propaganda, he would stop making stupid macho noises and give an assurance that we intend to resolve not only this problem but all disagreements with Iran by peaceful means, and give specific reassurance that no attack is imminent.
But if the Iranian government wait for Blair to behave well, the marines will rot for ever. They should let the men (and woman) go now, with lots of signs of friendship, thus further wrongfooting Bush and Blair.
As Britain's outspoken Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan, Craig Murray helped expose vicious human rights abuses by the US-funded regime of Islam Karimov. He is now a prominent critic of Western policy in the region.
Britain Must Admit Error, Iran SaysIranian president demands apology from UK
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has demanded an apology from Britain for "violating international law" with the claimed breach of their waters by the 15 sailors and Marines captured a week ago.Iranian state television reported his demands and has aired what they say is a "confession" by one of the British captives.
Amid widespread British claims of coercion, one of the personnel, named as Nathan Thomas Summers, is shown saying: "We entered Iranian waters without permission and were arrested by Iranian border guards.
"I would like to apologise to the Iranian people for this."
On Wednesday the Ministry of Defence published evidence showing that the boats were well inside Iraqi waters when they were captured a week ago.
The Foreign Office has denounced the broadcast of the footage, saying: "Using our servicemen in this way for propaganda reasons is outrageous."
Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief gave a message of support to the UK, saying: "The British soldiers should be released immediately and without preconditions."
But attempts to gain international condemnation of Iran’s capture of the personnel have been snubbed by the United Nations.
The UK asked UN Security Council members to say they “deplored” the continuing detention and to back calls for their “immediate release”.
But the council was divided on the issue, with Russia leading opposition to Britain’s demand for a tough stance against Iran.
Diplomats said Russia, backed by some other council members such as Indonesia, did not want to give the impression that the council was taking sides.Iran’s UN mission had also criticised Britain’s bid to turn the dispute into an international issue, saying: “The British government’s attempt to engage third parties, including the Security Council, with this case is not helpful.”
After four hours of negotiations yesterday, the Security Council could only agree a watered-down version of the statement, voicing “grave concern”, which fell far short of Britain’s demands.
It read: “Members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the capture by the Revolutionary Guard and the continuing detention by the government of Iran of 15 United Kingdom naval personnel and appealed to the government of Iran to allow consular access in terms of the relevant international laws.
“Members of the Security Council support calls, including by the secretary general in his March 29 meeting with the Iranian foreign minister, for an early resolution of this problem including the release of the 15 UK personnel.”
The Foreign Office tried to put a brave face on the setback, saying: “We are very encouraged by the international support we have received so far in lobbying the Iranians to release our people.“We will discuss a security council statement further with colleagues in New York.”
Oil Traders Fear an Attack on Iran
Okay, now I'm worried.
There have been several rounds of reports that the war-obsessed Bush administration was getting ready to attack Iran-first last September, then in December, and more recently in January and February.
The one thing that kept me thinking that a catastrophic war with Iran might not be in the offing was oil prices, which didn't seem to be acting as one would expect them to if there were a major war looming in the Persian Gulf. Oil prices, in fact, have been drifting slowly downward since September 2006, when they hit $68.85. Yet if there were going to be a hot war between the U.S. and Iran, one would expect much higher prices. After all, most of the combat would be occurring along Iran's heavily armed coastline and in the Gulf, through which over a quarter of all the world's oil passes. In the event of such a conflict, oil shipments would shut down from that region as underwriters jacked the price of insuring oil tankers in the Gulf to astronomical levels. Estimates of how expensive oil could become in the event of a US attack on Iran, the world's second largest oil producing nation, have ranged as high as $200/barrel-a level that would bring the global economy to a screeching halt.
Well, there are new reports circulating now that an attack by US air and naval forces could come in early April, and this time, the oil traders are taking them seriously. On Tuesday, oil futures shot up $5/barrel to hit $68/barrel-quite a jump, and the highest price for oil since last September.
Reports say that traders were responding to rumors-unsubstantiated-that Iran had fired on an American ship in the Gulf, and no doubt also to the ongoing tensions over Iran's capture and detention of 15 British sailors, whom it claims had illegally entered Iranian territorial waters.
Phil Flynn, a trader with Alaron Trading in Chicago, was quoted as saying that the oil market has been "on pins and needles" because of the tensions in the Persian Gulf between the US and Iran.
Adding to worries about oil supplies from the Gulf, no doubt, is the vast armada that the U.S. has amassed up close to Iran's borders-an armada that includes two fully armed aircraft battle groups, equipped with hundreds of strike aircraft and tomahawk cruise missiles and capable of delivering a crippling blow to Iran's military and industrial infrastructure.
The Bush administration, while repeatedly insisting it has no plans to attack Iran, has pointedly also stated on numerous occasions that "all options are on the table" in dealing with what it claims are Iraqi efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability. The White House and Pentagon have also been running a propaganda campaign-ominously reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq invasion--of trying to make a case that Iran is providing technical aid, weapons and training to Iraqi insurgents, particularly in the use of armor-penetrating explosive devices.
Iran, for its part, is continuing to develop its uranium refining skills and capacity, all the while denying that it has any plans to develop nuclear weapons. This past week, the United Nations voted stiffer sanctions on Iran for failing to bring its nuclear program into compliance with international rules and monitoring.
Iran denies that it has been aiding Iraqi insurgents or providing advanced weapons for use against US forces in Iraq, and indeed the evidence presented by the U.S. has been viewed with considerable skepticism.
Meanwhile, there are reports in the European press that American forces are massing along the Iraq border with Iran, even as the U.S. is conducting war games in the Gulf simulating an attack on Iran. There have also been reports for some time that US special forces have been operating in Iran, gathering intelligence and establishing coordinates on likely bombing targets, and perhaps linking with anti-government groups inside Iran that have been conducting terror attacks there. More recently there have been reports that the Bush administration has been using misappropriated Iraq reconstruction funds to finance Kurdish and Al Qaeda group attacks inside Iran.
Back in the U.S., the Bush administration succeeded in getting Congress to back off of attempts to include legislation barring the White House from attacking Iran without prior Congressional approval. Bush has already claimed that Iran is a terrorist nation and that he thus has the authority to attack that country at will because of the 2001 Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force which was actually an authorization for the US attack on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
It all would seem to point to the real possibility of an attack on Iran-a move that would be a war crime, that would be a disaster for the U.S., that would spark a global recession, and that would inflame the entire Middle East for years to come.
Do the oil traders know something that we in America should be knowing?And why aren't Congress and the US media discussing all this?