The other day, Iran took 15 British sailors and marines prisoner in the Shatt Al-Arab. The Iranian government alleges the sailors were engaged in espionage.
What is the Shatt Al-Arab?
The Tigris and Euphrates have flowed through what is now Iraq since ancient times. The Shatt Al-Arab is the “waterway” that begins where they now come together, in southern Iraq, The Iranians call it the Arvandrud river. It runs for about 125 miles and discharges into the Persian Gulf. Approximately the last 35-40 miles at the southern end run along the disputed border between Iraq and Iran. This is apparently where the Britons were seized.
These Brits are part of a task force under the authority of the UN Security Council, and are there to “maintain security.” They had apparently just searched a merchant ship. They were taken to Tehran and, under “interrogation,” allegedly admitted to espionage.
I don’t know for sure, of course, what the sailors were actually doing, nor where the international boundary “should” be. What I do know is that the British government should demand the return of their citizens (which I understand they have done). Then, when Iran does not comply, Britain should go get them. The United States should back the British in this, thus making up in part for our failure to free our embassy in 1979 when the Iranians overran it and kept fifty-some people hostage for well over a year.
My prediction though (which doesn’t require a crystal ball), is that negotiation and appeasement will be the weapon of choice once again.