Fifteen British Navy personnel have been detained by Iran this week after admitting to entering Iranian waters illegally. The detainees were escorted from their ship at gunpoint and have been held in Iran since the incident, although British Prime Minister Tony Blair insists that the 14 men and one woman (who is being held separately from her colleagues) were in fact not even in Iranian waters. It remains unclear what exactly must be achieved or ascertained in order for the soldiers to be returned home; Blair has said that his main focus at the moment is to convince the Iranian government that this was not a hostile move and that the detainees must be returned home. If this is not achieved, he says, his focus will move into a ?different phase? (1). Speculation on the meaning of this phrase has erupted throughout the world as onlookers wonder whether this incident will escalate into violence.
Despite Blair’s statement, video footage has been released of the female captive explaining that her and her counterparts had ?obviously . . . trespassed? (2). Footage was also released of several of the male detainees eating a meal. While no specific guarantees have been made on their behalf, the public was told that the British female would be sent home within a day of Wednesday’s footage.
Iran has been under close scrutiny by the British and Americans since its recent refusal to stop nuclear development. Worries have been expressed by both countries that Iran intends not just to create nuclear power but to build up its own nuclear weapons capability. With the American military endeavours in the Middle East of late, the global community has been watching the situation in Iran tentatively and wondering more often than not ?when? as opposed to ?if? there will be a military encounter in Iran. If the situation with the British detainees fails to be resolved quickly and peacefully, the decision will effectively fall onto Blair’s shoulders as the right-hand man of George W. Bush.
(1) CBC News (March 27, 2007). ?Blair says clash with Iran may move to ?different phase? if diplomacy fails.? Retrieved March 29, 2007, from http://www.cbc.ca/cp/world/070327/w032711A.html
(2) CBC News (March 28, 2007). ?Iran urges Britain to admit ?mistake? over sailors? position.? Retrieved March 29, 2007, from http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/03/28/britain-iran.html