Iran’s muddy waters

While the fate of our captives in Iran remains uncertain among conflicting reports about where they were picked up, a local newspaper has tracked down former Suffolk MP Sir Eldon Griffiths to his home in Orange County, California for his advice. He is an expert on Iran,  having chaired the Iran-British committee of the House of Commons, and published a book last year entitled Turbulent Iran.

He believes the problem has been escalated by both sides, that it could have been dealt with at a lower level if “tabloid politics” in the UK and Iran had not raised it to a “macho-match level.”

So where does that leave a young Suffolk man Mark Banks who is among those being held, his parents too upset to talk, and his colleagues? They plainly must be terrified about their fate, the way they are being used as political pawns. This is how Sir Eldon views the worrying situation:

There are divisions in Iran between chauvinists and pragmatists, just as there are in the UK and US. Iranian nationalists undoubtedly feel that Iran is being threatened – by the US and Israelis talking about air strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, US carrier task forces arriving offshore immediately following the UN’s escalated sanctions and the delay of US visas for the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s team for his trip to speak to Security Council about this.

“In these circumstances, the Iranians will now be looking for some kind of quid pro quo, to avoid it looking like a climb-down, when they release the sailors.

“What is needed is a Gulf security pact including Iran, Iraq, Saudi and all Gulf states.”

Sir Eldon certainly has a good understanding of Iran, the need for diplomacy to avoid the situation escalating. How do we get our service personnel back? I do not have faith in Margaret Beckett’s skills – she was heavily criticised last week for her “embarrassing failure” over delayed payments to farmers. She is way out of her depth here – literally!


  1. a lesser of two evils in this case JH.

  2. The FCO though, CityUnslicker, is a known Arab sympathiser so what’s not to trust?

  3. Kevin, That would be true of me, but I imagine she is trained to read a compass and map, while my best friend is my satnav. Mind you, she could have been smoking a ciggie at the time, and those smoke signals would have caused a distraction.

  4. electro-kevin

    14 men and 1 woman lost in a boat. Doesn’t take a genius to work out which one was reading the map.

  5. Joe, Are you suggesting we’re about to invade Iran? That would would be a turn-up for the books.

    As for the Peanuthead. I think from his recent anti-semitic outbursts, he’s probably joined the American Nazi Party. And to think he was US President.

  6. Q9,I would say we must do all we can to find where they are being held, knowledge is power. How we use it at this stage remains to be seen.

    It seems the boundary of these waters are “fuzzy”, according to what I heard on Newsnight. Iran is trying to give out positive messages right now, let’s hope they mean it.

  7. Elle, casing the joint to liberate them?
    Is that war talk – wasn’t that possibly how or why the 15 were captured.

    People who casually talk about sending the SAS or comandoes to ‘liberate’ prisoners, clearly have no idea of the realities of geography, or diplomacy. This is not the Falklands, albeit Iran doesn’t have much of a navy it has a more serious airforce than Argentina ever had. And they are not short on men with ‘guts’ either.

    If I were to use ‘military answers’ instead of diplomacy or the rule of law to sort out some of the lesser mortals who have pissed me off, or abused their positions of authority – the crematorium would be doing overtime.

  8. No 10 does not trust the FCo and makes it own sofa policy.

    Makes situation worse, FCO stuck.

    Now FCO gets blame!

    The issue here is No 10 policy development over the pragmatic FCO. I have not seen Blair listen to the FCO, even Straw got fed up with his attitude to it.

  9. electro-kevin

    Well at least Prince Harry could tell the Iranians he’d got lost because he was drunk – then again, they would have assumed so already and let him go.

  10. Joe, Jimmy Carter gets a mention in Sir Eldon’s book.

    Kevin, Just imagine if it had been Prince Harry who was captured…

  11. electro-kevin

    I really wouldn’t want to be in the services under this government – picked-off abroad, sued at home, abandoned in convalescence, families neglected in squalor …

    …Margaret Beckett – oh puleeease.

  12. Iran. Hostages. Politician wanting to leave a legacy.
    How is Jimmy Carter these days?

  13. Newmania, I would hope that we are “casing the joint” so we can free them by force if necessary, or do we wait for them to be tried for trespass and then jailed? How long does one give for diplomacy to reach an agreement? And, as Sir Eldon says, if Iran is looking for a face saving get-out clause, are we going to give it? I doubt it. I can never admit to being wrong if I know I am right, so I doubt that Britain will in such circumstances.

  14. Thus far what i am not seeing here is any body ANGRY that our people have been kidnapped by a rogue state who have moral equivalence with a snake not the UK. Part of ther reason why they are prepared to use kidnap and blackmail is that they know this country has become so decadent it is incapable of acting .

  15. Hi Elle,
    the good news this evening
    seems to reflect Iran situation
    has been scaled down.
    They even had a map showing how the shifting sands and tides in the estuary may have exagerated the boundary line, leaving a lot of room for GPS error. lol!

    it seems everything always looks better when the heat of the ‘moment’ has been diffused.
    Hope you enjoyed your weekend break!

  16. I think I agree with everybody above. Those poor sailors are just being used in a “game” for higher stakes. MB has never been so clearly out of her depth – it is an embarrassment. Hopefully the experienced diplomats are getting on with it. I do think there is something very incongruous and strange about the image of the woman sailor wearing the headscarf yet smoking at the same time.

  17. As ever, only dialogue, diplomacy and cultural understanding will prevail. I am sure no-one wants the situation to escalate, but it requires trust and expertise to resolve issues once they escalate, not macho posturing, rhetoric or propaganda. I am not convinced many modern UK politicians have the required skills and gravitas – let’s hope those behind the scenes are better qualified.

  18. Margarett Beckett’s performance is an embarassment; I hope something can be done to help.

  19. Ellee, it’s worth looking at the story the Japanese concocted as an Excuse very invading Manchuria in 1933.

  20. I’m very concerned about the situation, and have no idea how it will end. Iran needs to know we’re serious, and I think the tone now needs to be raised. That said, we’ve got to ensure there’s a door open to Iran to end the problem. What that door is, I don’t know. They could perhaps blame a cartographical error on both sides, by an independent cartographer?

  21. This is a behind the scenes game using the 15 as political footballs. It’s appalling.

  22. Joe, Yes, what were they doing there? That’s what the Iranians want to know. This subject is on Newsnight tonight:

    “Iran has said that it will show no further footage of the 15 British Naval personnel held in their custody, because of a “positive change” in the UK’s stance on the dispute. They also claim that all 15 Britons now accept they were in Iranian territorial waters when they were picked up well over a week ago.

    We’ll be interviewing the former ambassador Craig Murray who believes that the British can not be certain whether they were indeed in Iranian waters.”

  23. I’m still very suspicious about all this Ellee.
    Think we’re being conned again…

    What were they doing there?
    Of course, good for someone concerned abot their legacy…

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