Simon Heffer is fulminating in The Telegraph about the British sailors and marines detained by the Iranians. He ringingly declares
There is no doubt the 15 were in international waters when captured,
On the contrary; the one thing on which everyone’s agreed is that they weren’t in international waters, for the simple reason there aren’t any around there. Either, as the Iranians claim, they were 0.5 km inside Iranian waters or, as everyone else seems to think, they were 1.7 nautical miles in Iraqi waters.
No where else they could have been, unless, which I very much doubt, he means that Craig Murray is correct in arguing that it doesn’t really matter what their physical position was since the legal status of those waters is disputed between the two countries, no maritime border being agreed.
Mr Murray quotes,
that well known far left source Stars and Stripes magazine, October 24 2006.’Bumping into the Iranians can’t be helped in the northern Persian Gulf, where the lines between Iraqi and Iranian territorial water are blurred, officials said.
“No maritime border has been agreed upon by the two countries,” Lockwood said.’
That is Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Lockwood. He is the Commander of the Combined Task Force in the Northern Persian Gulf.
I might even know something about it myself, having been Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1989 to 1992, and having been personally responsible in the Embargo Surveillance Centre for getting individual real time clearance for the Royal Navy to board specific vessels in these waters.
He goes on to say that
It is essential now for both sides to back down. No solution is possible if either side continues to insist that the other is completely in the wrong and they are completely in the right. And the first step towards finding a peaceful way out, is to acknowledge the self-evident truth that maritime boundaries are disputed and problematic in this area.Both sides can therefore accept that the other acted in good faith with regard to their view of where the boundary was. They can also accept that boats move about and all the coordinates given by either party were also in good faith. The captives should be immediately released and, to international acclamation, Iran and Iraq, which now are good neighbours, should appoint a joint panel of judges to arbitrate a maritime boundary and settle this boundary dispute.
That is the way out. For the British to insist on their little red border line, or the Iranians on their GPS coordinates, plainly indicates a greater desire to score propaganda points in the run up to a war in which a lot of people will die, than to resolve the dispute and free the captives. The international community needs to put heavy pressure on both Britain and Iran to stop this mad confrontation.