Iran To Torture British Marines?
Example set by the West on treatment of foreign detainees does not bode well for diplomacy
Steve Watson
& wire reports
Monday, March 26, 2007  

Fifteen British soldiers currently undergoing interrogation after being seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards off the coast of Iraq for entering Iranian waters are under serious threat of torture if the West's treatment of suspected foreign enemies is anything to go by.

The Iranian foreign minister has said the issue is "being considered legally" and has suggested there may be charges.

Sources close to the Iranian leadership have stated: “If it is proven that they deliberately entered Iranian territory, they will be charged with espionage. If that is proven, they can expect a very serious penalty since according to Iranian law, espionage is one of the most serious offences.”

The penalty for espionage in Iran is death.

The warning followed claims by Iranian officials that the British navy personnel had been taken to Tehran, the capital, to explain their “aggressive action” in entering Iranian waters.

Despite it being reported that the Royal Navy personnel have admitted being in the country's waters to Iranian officials, Tony Blair and other senior British officials have insisted that they were in Iraqi waters.

Blair stated "It is simply not true that they went into Iranian territorial waters and I hope the Iranian government understands how fundamental an issue this is for us."

Blair also warned Iran last night that it has only a few days to find a diplomatic solution to the escalating crisis over the 15 missing British sailors and Marines. Presumably the situation would be escalated by Britain after such time should the marines not be handed over.

The US now has two carrier fleets in the Persian gulf which are officially operating there, according to Defense Secretary Gates, as a show of strength to Iran. Britain has also recently boosted its naval presence, having sent HMS Cornwall, a type-22 frigate, two mine sweepers, HMS Ramsey and HMS Blythe, and a vessel from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to the area.

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Despite British denials, Iran's claims have been backed up by a senior Iraqi officer:

“We were informed by Iraqi fishermen after they had returned from sea that there were British gunboats in an area that is out of Iraqi control,” said Brigadier-General Hakim Jassim, who is in charge of Iraq’s territorial waters. “We don’t know why they were there.”

Admiral Sir Alan West, who was accused of similar accusations of spying by Iran when eight British servicemen were detained in the same area in 2004, has stated that any "confession" by British servicemen "means absolutely nothing":

"These particular people would not be trained in counter-interrogation techniques because they are not expected to be captured. But I think our guidance to anyone in that position would be to say what they want you to say, let's not be silly about it. Don't tell them secrets, clearly, but if they tell you: 'Say this', well if that's going to get you out, then do it. It means absolutely nothing, what they say, to be honest."

Sadly in terms of international trend setting, Britain and the US has blazed the way for harsh interrogation techniques and after the debacle of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "confession" two weeks ago, the example the West has set is that such "confessions" gained under torture are perfectly admissible in a court.

Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Baghdad that there was no connection between the seizures of the 15 and any other issues between the West and Iran. He denied any aim for a prisoner swap.

Reports have suggested that Iran is acting in retaliation for U.S. actions on 11 January when military forces raided the Iranian liaison office in the Kurdish capital Arbil and detained five Iranian officials who are still prisoners.

Ahmad Bakhshaysh, a political analyst and professor in politics in Tehran's Allameh University, said a prisoner swap was not what Iran wanted.

"Iran is not after retaliation regarding abduction of its diplomats. ... However, Iran will use this opportunity to show to the world public opinion that Britons were (the) invader and Iran was victim of the Westerners bullying policy," he said.

The U.S. claims that the five Iranians taken captive in Iraq are part of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard force that provides funds, weapons and training to Shiite militias in Iraq.

The evidence for this is somewhat murky, indeed there is more evidence to suggest that the advance infra-red bomb technology being employed by some insurgents was developed by British and US special forces. This has raised serious questions as it has also been revealed that such elite units are recruiting, training and arming insurgents and terrorists as double agents.

Meanwhile in other developments, a well-known Russian journalist, Andrei Uglanov in the Moscow weekly “Argumenty Nedeli.” has calimed that Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff have uncovered plans for a US military attack on Iran slated for the first week of April.



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