Theodore's World: Blair Calls Cobra Team In As Crisis In Iran Escalates

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March 26, 2007

Blair Calls Cobra Team In As Crisis In Iran Escalates

Blair convenes Cobra team as crisis in Iran escalates
Sunday March 25, 2007

The official notification, delivered in secure calls yesterday morning to senior Whitehall figures, was the latest dramatic behind-the-scenes move to get to grips with a crisis that is now engulfing the government.

After a day of shadow-boxing with a notoriously slippery regime, Tony Blair is set to up the ante: the plight of the Shatt al-Arab 15 is officially a crisis and he will need the Cobra team to handle it.

The clutch of VIPs will gather in an operations room several floors below Downing Street as early as this afternoon to plot an escape from a military spat that now threatens to become an international incident.

The decision came just 24 hours after the crew of HMS Cornwall had been caught in the confusion of direct confrontation with Iranian vessels in the searing heat of the Gulf.

As the crew members were surrounded in their two rubber dinghies, the Cornwall's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, frantically radioed back to his own top brass for instructions.

The response to the inquiry, which had been immediately patched through to Ministry of Defence headquarters in Whitehall, was to hold fire.

The order to show restraint has been observed throughout the forces and the British government in the 48 hours since, but it is unclear how long both sides will be able to maintain control.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett's first response to the gathering crisis on Friday was to keep to diplomatic conventions. After a hurried phone call to Blair, she immediately summoned Iran's ambassador, Rasoul Movahedian, to her office to explain their behaviour.
After a meeting described by officials as "brisk but polite", Beckett emerged to stress that she was "extremely disturbed" by events.

It was an understated description of the deep concern now gripping the government. Not only was Blair's administration alarmed at the risk to the 15 military personnel, which included at least one woman, but it was in no doubt over Tehran's ability to use their plight to make a wider point.

During a flurry of diplomatic activity in the hours after the snatch, the Iranians' rhetoric repeatedly elevated their action, and the alleged motives of the British, to a multinational affair. It was the eve of a second UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions over Iran's refusal to halt its programme to enrich uranium. The Shatt al-Arab 15 were, from the start, pawns in a perilous international game.

"It looks like too much of a coincidence," a senior Foreign Office insider confirmed.

The response was a no- nonsense demand for Iran to relent - and Britain freely used the international community to back up its case. Beckett dispatched the UK chargé d'affaires, Kate Smith, to confront the government in Tehran, armed with the insistence that the British sailors had been in Iraqi waters.

In the meantime, Blair made a personal call to European allies, including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, to secure a public denunciation of the Iranians' actions.

"It was impressed on everyone how important it was to raise the diplomatic temperature, rather than keep a low profile and let them make a song and dance of the situation," one defence official said.
"There is nothing to be gained in provoking a confrontation, because that would be playing into their hands. But neither should we let them have it all their way. We tried that before and we're still trying to get our kit back."

The smaller-scale precedent, the taking of six British marines and two sailors on the same waterway in June 2004, was a painful lesson. The personnel were only returned after they had been paraded blindfold on Iranian television and admitted entering Iranian waters illegally. Three years on, the government is still pressing Iran for the return of its boats and kit, including valuable radar equipment.

The degree of concern felt across Whitehall was demonstrated yesterday, when Movahedian was called back to the Foreign Office, this time to see Beckett's minister, Lord Triesman. The British were clearly attempting to warn off Tehran before it could begin to use the servicemen and women as a significant propaganda tool.

It was, however, a race against time - and through it all, the diplomats and the politicians were acutely aware that Tehran has built a foreign policy on disregarding diplomatic niceties.

Top level COBRA is an acronym for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, where its meetings are held.

Tony Blair, senior ministers, police and security chiefs all take part. It is called after events such as 9/11, 7/7 and can evoke emergency powers such as suspending Parliament or restricting movement.

Wild Thing's comment........

I only can pray that these sailors will be safe and unharmed and not killed.

Anyone feel like the worm is about to turn and the Iranians arent going to like the direction it takes?

Blair while in Berlin said:

"Tony Blair has called the seizure of British sailors by Iran "unjustified and wrong," and rejects the claim that they strayed into Iranian waters.

Speaking to journalists in Berlin, the Prime Minister said he hoped the Iranian Government understood the "fundamental" nature of the issue.

"There is no doubt at all that these people were taken from a boat in Iraqi waters.

"It is simply not true that they went into Iranian territorial waters, and I hope the Iranian government understands how fundamental an issue this is for us.

"We have certainly sent the message back to them very clearly indeed. They should not be under any doubt at all about how seriously we regard this act, which is unjustified and wrong."

Posted by Wild Thing at March 26, 2007 12:55 AM


"As the crew members were surrounded in their two rubber dinghies, the Cornwall's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, frantically radioed back to his own top brass for instructions.
The response to the inquiry, which had been immediately patched through to Ministry of Defence headquarters in Whitehall, was to hold fire".

Amazing!! The commander of a British Warship has to radio for instructions and is told to do nothing while his men are taken prisoner. My gosh, Admiral Lord Nelson must be puking in his grave over this.

Posted by: BobF at March 26, 2007 06:54 AM

A ship in international waters is an extension of that country's sovereign territory, boarding or seizure of the ship or it's members is an open act of war. Having to ask for permission to protect themselves is ludicrous, it is telling of how PC and dumbed down we've all become under the false pretense of UN protection.

What the hell is Blair waiting for, the United States to come to his rescue? They're preferring to call this an "accident" by the Brits and not an act of war by Iran.

This is the same type of PC crap that got the SS Mayaguez captured? Didn't the world learn anything from the taking of the USS Pueblo?

All allied nations need to ban together and take out the fascist regime in Tehran and not worry about collateral damage and not stop until even their camels are on their knees begging for peace. The US has a decided propensity to protect the wrong party's.

Posted by: Jack at March 26, 2007 08:07 AM

Jack - basically there are no allied nations. I think the US is almost in this war alone. The Brits are going along for a while, their longevity in the war may be determined by this incident. A few other nations have token forces working with us, several of those nations though prohibit the use of their combat forces.

I do not know how tough a nut Iran would be. Our forces are stretched very thin. The one light on the horizon is that Iran may be coming apart from the inside. If we use our unconventional warfare abilities we may be able to really destabilize Shorty's government.

My worry is our leadership. Bush seems to be inept and unrealistic about so much. When he was first elected I was very optimistic and also very enthusiastic about his Administration. Now it seems like the "Gang that could not shoot straight" as they seem adrift in confusion, indecision, political correctness, and cronyism.

Posted by: TomR at March 26, 2007 11:52 AM

The question is what the UK or the USA going to do about any of this. In light of the Marines being expelled for Afghanistan, the Skipper of this British Ship having to ask instructions about what to do when their Sailors were Sheng-hai'ed.

So Blair is calling a meeting. We haven't heard a peep out of Washington. Those gutless Bastards probably haven't even heard of this yet, after all they would probably want to offer Iran some sort of compensation as a payoff for the infringement of our allies into their territory.

Are we crazy of what ? Isn't this what started the Barbary Pirates War? Impressing US Seamen ? Now it is British Seamen so what is the difference. They are being held for ransom or their lives will be taken and we are bowing to a midget sized Bully with a brain to match.

What ever happened to, "Millions for charity and not one penny for Tribute." Ooops I forgot the dems are in charge. But I should say politicians are in charge and they could care less about our country or its reputation.

I guess all this admirable history of our country is just that words, written in the sand, for grammar school kids to learn and quickly forgot and then to be blown away by the winds of time so as not to remind us what we stand for, or used to stand for. I am disgusted.

Posted by: Mark at March 26, 2007 03:15 PM

I guess 007 was a pussy after all? No THUNDERBALLS here? Here's a secret for the pip-pip civilized world: Iraniacs, communists and Islamomaniacs don't have to play by any rules. And when these Islamo Militant Mutants have the BBC on THEIR side, along with NBC and CNN, guess what? CHECKMATE western world, you lose every single time! Poor England - Once former 'Great' Britain - sadly the world now knows you're a paper lion. The Islamo Iraniac McAhab Navy took a page out of our War of 1812's British book of piracy. And this was done AFTER CIA intel briefings and with TWO US Navy Carrier groups in theatre? 007 is shaken and stirred - bigtime.
God truly does have to save the Queen!

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at March 26, 2007 07:48 PM

Bob, that part got me too, that he called in and then was told to do nothing.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 26, 2007 11:38 PM

Jack.... yes.... and I know I am very impatient about things like this, but it is only because I know the hate the enemy has and how earger they are to kill. I want this done and taken care of asap and no a bunch of people sitting around in Blair's office being PC and wanting deals that Iran will never follow through on.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 26, 2007 11:42 PM

Tom, I would love to do this "destabilize Iran's government" and take the sailors back, and I could care less if more counties hate us, heck they do already. They hate us when we send money to help them after tsunamies ( spelling), they hate us when we help them after earthquakes anytime we help they just hate us more. Good or bad it never changes anything it seems.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 26, 2007 11:47 PM

Mark, AMEN! Our government cannot stand up for the Border Patrol, grrrrr. Blair stood up with Bush on the war in Iraq and we need to show that same friendship now to the UK for these men that will very possibly be killed.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 26, 2007 11:50 PM

Darth, yes your right about the ships being there.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 26, 2007 11:53 PM