A soldier’s nightmare

Put yourself in their place:

In a chilling account of their capture, the men said they were conducting a routine search of a merchant vessel on March 23 just south of the Shatt al Arab waterway, one nearly identical to 66 similar boardings that had been carried out over the previous four weeks.

Noticing suddenly that the helicopter that normally monitors their operations had returned to the “mother” ship, they then saw two speedboats approaching rapidly from 400 yards away, [Marine Capt. Chris] Air said.

“I ordered everyone to make their weapons ready, and ordered the boarding party to return to the boats,” he said. By the time everyone was back on board, he said, two Iranian boats had pulled alongside their small, inflatable crafts.

Air said he explained their mission to an officer who spoke good English, but when they tried to leave, the Iranians blocked their departure.

“By now, it was increasingly clear that they had arrived with a planned intent,” he said. “Some of the Iranian sailors were becoming deliberately aggressive and unstable. They rammed our boat and trained their heavy machine guns, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and weapons on us.”

Another six Iranian boats were closing in, Air said, and the British crew made the decision not to fight back.

“We realized that had we resisted, there would have been a major fight, one we could not have won with consequences that would have had major strategic impact,” he said. “We made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians and do as they asked.” — Kim Murphy, LA Times

After their capture, the British personnel were interrogated for long periods, kept in solitary confinement, and told that they would face years of imprisonment if they did not admit to being in Iranian waters, etc.

British First Sea Lord, Admiral Jonathan Band “expressed unqualified support for the crew’s conduct during their detention and afterward”.

There’s no question that they behaved with courage and made the right choices. The real question is why they were left without support when a similar incident had happend three years ago.

As often happens, the ordinary soldiers suffered as a result of the failures of their upper-echelon commanders.

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