Gee ya think that might be warranted?
As someone who has spent thousands of hours doing the very same type of maritime intercept operations they were conducting, in the very same geographic position, I think I can lend a hand and point to the most egregious errors they committed.
1. The the officers and crew were inadequately equipped to defend themselves.
At the time of their capture, they had disembarked from their vessel, the HMS Cornwall, and boarded two inflatable boats in order to board and inspect a vessel under a U.N. mandate. Their only weapons were light side-arms and no match for the six Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy vessels that surrounded them.
2. Inadequate air cover.
While the HMS Cornwall’s Lynx helo was on station during the boarding ops it returned to the Cornwall’s flight deck far too early and before their crewman were safely on board the Cornwall. By the time the helo was scrambled back to the scene of the abduction it was too late.
In addition the Times on Line reports that “British soldiers operating in southern Iraq were put on alert earlier this year against the hostage threat. They were authorized to use “maximum force” to avoid being captured while on patrol. The same rules of engagement clearly did not apply to naval personnel patrolling Iraqi waters.”
3. Lack of training in proper procedures and/or no official Code of Conduct for the British military.
The U.S. Military operates under at very precise Code of Conduct. A quick Google of “British military code of conduct” turns up ziltch. If one were to apply the U.S. Code the British sailors and Marines violated nearly every article of the Code.
4. Inadequate use of available resources.
HMS Cornwall was under operational control of Commodore Lamert, commander of Coalition Task Force 158. CTF 158 had available 11 warships in addition to Cornwall (12 units from theUS, UK, Australian and Iraqi navies) – including two Cylcone-class patrol vessels which could have easily operated in the shallow waters where the boarding party was conducting inspections.
The question should be not why why there was a shortage of warships, but why the assets available were not used.
5. The British Minster of Defense’s (MoD) total lack of appreciation of the recent history of the area.
As noted in #2 above the MoD issued orders to ground forces in the south of Iraq to prepare for any possibility of hostage taking by enemy forces. By all indications that warning wasn’t extended to the naval forces.
This latest incident coincided with fresh accusations by Lt. Col. Maciejewski, the commanding officer at the UK base at Basra Palace, that insurgents in southern Iraq are being funded and armed by Iran. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said he had no “smoking gun” to back up his claims, but then claimed that “all the circumstantial evidence points to Iranian involvement in the bombings here in Basra.”
The most recent example was in 2004 when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards caught and imprisoned six British Royal Marines who were alleged to have strayed with their three riverine patrol boats inside Iranian territorial waters on the Shatt al-Arab. The British marines were blindfolded and subjected to humiliating interrogations before they were finally released following pleas from the British Foreign Office.
Also in April 2004 a Iraqi Resistance attack on the oil terminals in al-Basrah had knocked out of commission the two largest terminals in Iraq. U.S. forces suspended oil exports from the Iraqi port of al-Basrah after the attacks that left three Americans dead and four wounded. The al-Basrah and Mina al-Bakar terminals are both located within TF 158’s area of operations.
6. That the MoD ignored both recent and past history of the area is unconscionable.
The neighbors don’t even agree what to call it. For the Iranians, it is Arvandrud, or Arvand River. To the Iraqis, it is the Shatt al-Arab, or Arab coastline.
And in most cases the United Nations is of little help. “It is up to each country to decide their borders,” said Farhan Haq, a U.N. spokesman. “The United Nations does not draw borders. What the recognized borders are in that waterway is the decision of Iran and Iraq.”
As the Sunday Telegraph reports “Horseplay between young Brits completed what might have been the end of a package tour as the 15 sailors and marines from HMS Cornwall were returned by the grace and favour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
With tensions high over Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, and recent U.S. detentions of Iranians in Iraq, Iran may have found a way to assert itself internationally without provoking serious repercussions.
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