Skip

Arrested British sailors were gathering intelligence on Iran while on UN mandate?
April 8, 2007 4:46 AM   Subscribe

Releaed British navy commander: We were gathering intelligence on Iran (Watch the interview)
Tony Blair: The sailors were on a legitimate UN mandate
The Observer: The MoD confirmed last night that the Iranians had made the claim that they had become interested in Cornwall's activities after learning about it on British television, but denied the decision to allow the ship's crew to be interviewed while on active duty had jeopardised the mission.
posted by hoder (30 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The interview (and subsequent articles on the subject) makes it very clear that the navy officers were not going into Iranian waters to gather intelligence, or using listening devices, or watching Iranian shipping, or anything else. They were asking the ships they stopped, under UN mandate, if they had any information that would be of interest about smugglers, Iranian actions, other boats, etc. Here is the quote:
Secondly it's to gather int (Intelligence). If they do have any information because they're here for days at a time, they can share it with us whether it's about piracy or any sort of Iranian activity in the area because obviously we're right by the buffer zone with Iran. This Dhow had been robbed by some Iranian soldiers about 3 days ago, they had some money taken off them and apparently it's happened quite a lot of times in the past so it's good to gather int on the Iranians.
There is a big difference between what is in the interview and the implication that they were spying on Iran. It sounds like they were indeed fulfilling the UN mandate.
posted by blahblahblah at 5:39 AM on April 8, 2007


Meanwhile, the big news this morning is that the sailors are being allowed to sell their stories, with Turney getting a reported £100,000 for her Tonight programme interview - closes an interesting media circle if it was a TV interview that got them in the shit in the first place.
posted by jack_mo at 6:03 AM on April 8, 2007


And I thought this was going to have some connection to the Raelians...
posted by bugmuncher at 6:03 AM on April 8, 2007


Yeah, this is completely stupid and overblown. If you're patrolling the waters next to an unfriendly (if not overtly hostile) power, you'd have to be an IDIOT not to ask if there was anything going on you should know about.

'Intelligence gathering', in the sense that most people use it, involves some clandestine aspect; the idea is that you're being sneaky. It implies underhandedness.

But he's using the words the proper way: the actual denotation of 'intelligence' includes just asking people about stuff. These guys are asking straight-up questions to see if ship captains want to volunteer anything interesting.

This is just simple, sensible behavior. Nothing sneaky. It's all on the up-and-up. Anyone with the least shred of sense would do exactly the same.
posted by Malor at 6:06 AM on April 8, 2007


I don't see what the issue is. They are gathering intelligence on Iran. So what? I would be kind of worried if they were not gathering int on Iran. When the revolutionary guards are bullying and invading the Iraqi shipping lanes committing piracy and smuggling then what the hell do you expect? This is entirely legal. There is absolutly nothing wrong with it at all.
posted by Po0py at 6:42 AM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Allowing the sailors/marines to be paid for their stories seems foolish to me. Rewarded for being captured, hmm.... interesting incentive.
posted by knapah at 6:46 AM on April 8, 2007


They were in disputed waters.

Combined with their overly aggressive stance towards Iran, it would be silly not to expect something like this.

No sense in acting all surprised about it.
posted by Djinh at 6:49 AM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


He was a captain in the Royal Marines. Not a Commander in the Royal Navy. There's a big difference.
posted by veedubya at 6:59 AM on April 8, 2007


I'm thinking the decision to let them sell their stories to newspapers, publishers, and possibly a docudrama producer is a calculated feint in the information war. The British (and Iranian) governments can only hold so many official press conferences and issue so many statements. Allowing this increases the media exposure of the British version of events. Interesting.
posted by Martin E. at 7:05 AM on April 8, 2007


Didn't you post this last week?
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:20 AM on April 8, 2007


Get some differently filtered news. It's amazing how many views are out there, you know?
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:37 AM on April 8, 2007


Allowing the sailors/marines to be paid for their stories seems foolish to me. Rewarded for being captured, hmm.... interesting incentive.

How much did Jessica Lynch get for her book? Or John McCain? I don't think many people would try to get captured by the enemy in order to get a book deal when (and if) you get home.
posted by delmoi at 7:54 AM on April 8, 2007


The pilot of the EP-3 that landed in China wrote a book, and is now state treasurer of Nebraska.

And of course gathering "int" is not the same as spying (speaking of the EP-3, which was flying in international airspace), at least not in the international law sense. The Geneva Conventions clearly specify the difference between uniformed members of the military and spies. There can be a fine line in some cases, but these were Royal Marines wearing uniforms flying the British flag in clearly British watercraft (which were not returned, last I heard). That doesn't qualify as illegal spying, even if they did trespass on Iranian waters.

This (U.S.) Army Times article had some good points raised. Basically, the US Navy at least believes, errors or state of war notwithstanding, that its rules of engagement and other procedures would never leave a couple of inflatables exposed to capture like this. It's a not-very-implicit criticism of the Royal Navy in letting these guys out of their sight and the Iranian boats too close. If they were playing chicken (and they may well have been, don't get me wrong), this was pretty sloppy. It most certainly was not the fault of the crews, who were given inadequate support and possibly inadequate training (e.g. for being held prisoner, psychologically). There's a bit of bluster in the article, too (self-defense is not realistic if you're thoroughly outnumbered).

I'm not so sure that the TV interviews were of any significance. The Iranian Navy (or Revolutionary Guards Navy, in this case) would be irresponsible if it didn't already know that the British ships operating in the Gulf were gathering intelligence. I can more imagine that they were simply ticked off that it was openly discussed on TV. But timing-wise, it seems to me more likely that they shadowed these operations for weeks or months before choosing a moment they knew they could succeed. "One does not simply walk into Mordor."
posted by dhartung at 9:37 AM on April 8, 2007


Oh really? Where are all the listening devices, data, photos, etc captured by the iranians? Which one is their cryptological officer? Which ones have int backgrounds? Oh right, they don't exist.

What we have are 15 sailors in inflatable boats boarding a fishing ship. hoder, go home and take your murdoch sky news with you.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:38 AM on April 8, 2007


hoder, I'm not sure what it is that bothers you about this. Do you think it's wrong to gather intelligence on Iran from the other side of the border? Or do you believe they actually entered Iran to gather intelligence? If the latter is the problem, your main argument should be proving an intentional crossing of the border, not proving intelligence gathering.
posted by gubo at 9:48 AM on April 8, 2007


Turney getting a reported £100,000 for her Tonight programme interview

If the Iranians were smart, they negotiated a profit-sharing deal with the captives.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 AM on April 8, 2007




Kristol: Proper Response To Iran’s Kidnapping Of Soldiers Would Have Been Military Strikes

Only if they wanted 'em dead.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on April 8, 2007


So many rightwingers and Republicans are really pissed we didn't use this to invade--it's sick.
posted by amberglow at 12:19 PM on April 8, 2007


Yeah, it's a damn shame that they got those sailors back without killing and maming a few hundred thousand people in the process.

"between what is in the interview and the implication that they were spying on Iran"

How did the Easter Bunny treat you this morning?
I guess if they didn't find any sooper sekret spy gadgets or a martini sipping '00' agent aboard we can assume there was no spying going on.
posted by 2sheets at 12:58 PM on April 8, 2007


Kristol: Proper Response To Iran’s Kidnapping Of Soldiers Would Have Been Military Strikes

Kristol: Proper Response To Disappointing Turkey Sandwich Would Have Been Military Strikes

Kristol: Proper Response To Late Dry Cleaning Would Have Been Military Strikes

Kristol: Proper Response To Unreachable Itch On Back Would Have Been Military Strikes

Kristol is a krunt.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


In other Axis of Evil news: North Koreans Arm Ethiopians as U.S. Assents
posted by homunculus at 1:44 PM on April 8, 2007


Rudy's ready to invade them too
posted by amberglow at 1:52 PM on April 8, 2007


on all those always baying for blood, Iranian or otherwise: ...
They are a fringe group of extremists. They would gladly launch a pre-emptive strike against China if they were completely unfettered. And they are the exact same people that are in charge of the United States.

They live in a world sans shades of gray. Existence is black and white. Good versus evil. The U.S. against everyone - forever.

posted by amberglow at 3:49 PM on April 8, 2007


First of all, this is a terrible FPP. Of course the Royal Marines and Royal Navy were gathering intelligence on Iran, among many other things. That doesn't mean they crossed into Iranian or even "disputed" waters. And do you think the Iranian Revolutionary Guards aren't doing exactly the same on their side? Pleeaase...

What the Iranians did here was wrong on many levels: first of all, it appears quite clear that they entered Iraqi waters to capture the British sailors and marines. Secondly, they used them as propaganda weapons and bargaining chips, breaking a whole array of international conventions in the process.

Unfortunately, while morally wrong, it was quite clever: they forced the British onto the negotiating table and scored a very significant propaganda victory. Nobody has suggested that the Britons were tortured or submitted to anything more than "psychological pressure". Psychological pressure, moreover, of a considerably lower level than that exerted on the Guantánamo "detainees". And despite that, it took them just a few days to extract TV "confessions" from at least two supposedly highly trained professional Western military people. That sort of raises some doubts about the information gathered from the Guantánamo "detainees", dontcha think?
posted by Skeptic at 4:40 PM on April 8, 2007


This incident is one of the first of many chickens coming home to roost.

If you do away with any treaty or protocol you don't agree with, why would you expect your enemies to behave like you won't?

Iran was watching the US moves in Iraq the whole time. There is no high road we can take, so it's a matter of who blinks first. There will be more feints and provocations of both sides in the near future.
posted by black8 at 6:45 PM on April 8, 2007


I remember a thread just like this one. It was a good thread.
posted by chunking express at 7:27 PM on April 8, 2007


it took them just a few days to extract TV "confessions" from at least two supposedly highly trained professional Western military people

Are actual, for-real military people trained to not make bogus confessions? Really? If so, why?

I mean, if I were God-Emperor, I'd have my minions trained so that if they were captured they would cheerfully confess to anything they were asked to confess to.

Nobody has suggested that the Britons were tortured or submitted to anything more than "psychological pressure".

For now. If you didn't mind really pissing off the Iranians, it would be amusing for the UK to have the captured folks insist that they were repeatedly and clumsily sodomized by Ahmenijad himself, or that they were forced to defecate upon masturbating mullahs in order to heighten their pleasure.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:28 PM on April 8, 2007


Oh mercy - I'm agreeing with ROU_Xenophobe.
posted by seanyboy at 2:39 AM on April 9, 2007


You know who really needs to do some intelligence gathering? hoder.
posted by The Monkey at 4:11 AM on April 9, 2007


« Older some unusual musical instruments   |   Sexy Witch Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post