Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pinpointing the needles amongst the Gulf sandbanks 

So we now have the co-ordinates for the ‘Seized Marines’ incident.

Seems to have taken place awfully close to the boundary line for Iraq-Iran waters. Is this spot conceded by Iran to be Iraqi?

Our former ambassador in Uzbekistan Craig Murray has been commenting firstly here, then here and lately here on the evolving dispute using his professional knowledge of how these things actually work.

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.)….. 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

Turns out Murray was one of the chief UK negotiators at the Law of the Sea Conferences, so he has expert credentials on this kind of dispute. He is uncomplimentary both about the UK and Iran for their handling of these matters.

His thoughts on the Law of the Seas conferences (held in Jamaica) leads him to some surprising byways about Bob Woolmer.

Will be interesting to see how Murray comments on today’s revelations on the GPS readings.

According to Murray, the Iranians may be taking seriously some questionable intelligence that the US intends to attack Iran on 6 April. If they actually believe this possible, (Murray does not believe it) the ‘UK Marines’ incident may be a dreadfully misconceived Iranian attempt to gain political leverage.

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