There was no question, however, about the justice of the British case - the sailors had been in Iraqi waters. The Iranians were lying when they claimed otherwise. In fact, it turns out that it was the British government that was being economical with the truth:
Not so simple, as it turns out. I has been admitted that, in fact, the sailors had strayed out of Iraqi waters and were in a disputed area. Worse, the US/COalition forces hadn't bothered to tell the Iranians where they'd drawn the line on the water to demrcate Iraq waters:
Ministry of Defence papers showing that the Britons were seized in disputed waters, not Iraqi territory.
The MoD also rejected an application under the Freedom of Information Act to provide details of the location.
Mr Browne has told the Commons repeatedly that the patrolling Britons, who were held for a fortnight and paraded on Iranian television, were seized boarding a vessel in “Iraqi waters”. (1)
An internal MoD paper released to The Times blames the incident on the lack of an agreed border in the waters between Iraq and Iran.'Cheating Arab' is a colloquial term in Britain for someone who is not trustworthy. Perhaps a term like 'Lying Brit' is gaining currency in Tehran. It would be justified.
The seizure occurred, the top-level document states, because the US-led coalition created a notional sea boundary but omitted to tell the Iranians where it was. Revolutionary Guard patrol boats were crossing this line three times a week, the partially censored document shows. (2)
The failure of the coalition to establish the border with the Iranians is beyond belief. It is so klutzish an oversight, particularly in light of the frequent violations of the boundary, that you have to wonder if the failure to tell the Iranians about the boundary was deliberate. This would allow a steady stream of stories about Iranian incursions to suggest the Iranians were being provokative, and if an incident like the one in March last year was not desired by the Powers That Be as a causus belli.
1 - 'Des Browne ‘misled MPs over seizure of British sailors in the Gulf’,' by Dominic Kennedy in The Times, 18th of April, 2008. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3768243.ece)
2 - ibid.