Friday, March 23, 2007

Civis Brittanicus Sum

Watching the news today; the detention of fifteen British sailors and Royal Marines by the Iranian navy, I’m reminded of the “Don Pacifico” incident from my school GCE history, years ago.

Don Pacifico, a British citizen, lived and worked in Greece for a period of time as the Portuguese consul. In 1847 his home was attacked and vandalised by a mob whilst the police looked on and took no action. He appealed to the Greek government for compensation but when it was not forthcoming he appealed in 1848 to the British government.

Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary took unilateral action in support of Pacifico, after the Greek government persisted in refusing to compensate him. He sent the Royal Navy to blockade Greek ports and harass Greek shipping. The blockade lasted 2 months. The affair ended only when the Greek government agreed to compensate Pacifico, after Greek ships were seized by the Royal Navy.

Palmerston received a great deal of criticism from both foreign powers and domestic politicians but defended his actions in a five hour speech before the House of Commons, comparing the British Empire to the Roman Empire. "As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say, Civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen], so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him from injustice and wrong."

So here’s the question for discussion. Does our present Prime Minister, Mr Blair, politely inform the Iranians that their ports will be blockaded or Tehran, swiftly removed from the map by one of our nuclear submarines, unless our sailors and their vessel are returned within 24 hours or will he grovel, through diplomatic channels, over many days and perhaps weeks and allow the Iranians to demonstrate who is really in control in southern Iraq and that our lads, now being held in some dank Iranian cell, can’t count on our government to back them up?

What's your view?


Anonymous said...

anon again!

I am sure we have the facilities to organise something for Iran on a similar thesis. S.A.S./S.B.S. go get 'em....

Anonymous said...

A note of caution everyone! HMS Cornwall was only new to the station and are we absolutely sure that in the enthusiasm of a recent arrival, the boarding parties were not actiually in Iranian waters? We do not need or can afford,with our forces overstretched as they are, a head to head with Iran! Gently, gently is the way forward here.
What is slightly worrying is the shift in Government policy on hostage taking. The strange 'rescue' of hostages in Iraq last year and the recent reticence on how the embassy bods in Ethiopia were returned a few days ago seems to indicate a subtle shift in the UK Governments approach. Are we now quietly paying ranoms? Kipling comes to mind: "if you pay the Dane geld , you'll never be rid of the Dane".

Anonymous said...

Surely with civillian GPS accuracy down to 5 metres and satellite reconnaissance photos, the exact position of both mother ship and boarding parties could be proved beyond doubt these days, so why has this undisputable evidence not been produced? Jammy Dodger - Birchington

DrMoores said...

According to the Captain yesterday, there was a Lynx above them flying support and if correct, the GPS details will be exact.

What disturbs me is that a Lynx, should, in theory, be more than capable of sinking any threat to the RIBs, leaving me to conclude that we simply abandoned our men and one woman to the Iranians without a shot being fired.

I'm sure there's more to the story but expect them all to be paraded in Tehran admitting their guilt as spies.

Would the Americans have left their Marines in the lurch? - I think not!

Anonymous said...

What worries me is that accusations were made in the falkland crisis, that Margaret Thatcher had engineered the conflict to bolster her support in the country.

We have local elections soon, could Mr Blair have engineered this crisis to try to boost his party's support, or am I being too cynical of new labour

Anonymous said...

I doubt the Iranians would dare push the Americans like this. Unfortunately we are not really in a position to do some good old gunboat diplomacy these days.

Nevertheless I think we need to be robust in our response because the Iranians are likely to become emboldened by any sign of weakness.

When they held the US embassy staff hostage in 1978 they knew the US President was a spineless chump. They pretty soon released them when Reagan was elected. They would not take the same risk with George Bush.

As much as I would like to see us blockade their oil refineries it would only put us in dire straits and we would be hurt much more than Iran by any such action.

Ultimately we will be engaged in conflict with these people, it is only a matter of time. When they do manage to build an A bomb the Israelis, and most likely the Americans will intervene. They will not allow these maniacs to have the potential to wipe Israel of the map as Ahminmedinnerjacket has boasted already.

Doctor Doom said...

Amid all the jingosim and little-Englander rhetoric it might be worth inverting the question.

Supposing a hostile foreign country had military craft casually sauntering off Margate, or the Isle of Wight, or anywhere else off our own coast, thousands of miles from their own country.

That's precisely the situation the Iranians found themselves in.

The British troops are under legal arrest, not being held hostage, (though who could blame the Iranians if they followed the fine example of that bastion of democracy and human rights the USA, claimed them to be "non-combatants" and locked them up for a few years without trial).

So far there's no suggestion that the British troops have been in any way mal-treated, and talk of hostages and forced confessions should be seen as the propaganda it is.

DrMoores said...

Very good. I recall making a contribution a month or so ago, with many thousands of others, to buy the freedom of a teenage girl from a Tehran jail, after the local judge decided - on appeal - not to hang her for defending herself against a gang rape. Thus I'm a little dubious over the Iranian version of events.

That said, I'm possibly the only person locally who has actually negotiated on a one to one, face to face basis with the last Iranian President's personal envoy, - passing on a personal message to No10 - in attempting to build a better relationship with our country. Mind you, that was before we invaded Iraq and Iran decided that Uranium enrichment was a good idea, so times have changed!

The previous comment was closer to the mark. It's really a question of when we have an open armed conflict with Iran and on whose terms, the Americans or the Israelis, with us as the ham in the sandwich!

The UN vote this weekend will give us some idea of how the plot will unravel. China and Russis, with huge investments (arms, reactors and oil) will vote against sanctions and simply demonstrate how divided and useless the UN really is as a world policeman.

Anonymous said...

To reply to Doctor Doom, I would hope that we would not arrest people who are outside our territorial waters. If they did stray inside, I would expect those prisoners to be treated fairly, given access to legal advice and consular officials at the earliest opportunity and not blindfolded and humiliated, forced to confess to "crimes" they may not have committed and paraded on television. In other words basic human rights. The previous actions of the Iranians do not lead me to believe that his will be the case with our people. All that being said, the rights or wrongs of the Iranian case could be proved by showing evidence of GPS positioning and surveillance satellite pictures which I am sure at least one of the allied governments would possess. Jammy Dodger - Birchington

Doctor Doom said...

Quite right, Jammy D., and if the Iranians follow that route you can be sure Doc Doom will be among the first to condemn them.

But while Guantanamo Bay continues to hold untried prisoners, including British citizens, several years after their original detainment, with the tacit support of the UK Government, it reeks of hypocrisy to talk about human rights abuses in Iran while remaining the uncritical ally of the USA. But then, hypocrisy is the UK Government's stock in trade, as witness our and US support for Saddam for so many years, until it became inconvenient.

The issue of the Allies producing GPS evidence is an interesting one. If it is on par with the infamous evidence of WMDs ready to strike in twenty minutes, that four years on have yet to be found, then I for one shall view it with a sceptical eye...

Anonymous said...

whats the point of spending billons on things like trident if we dont use them?
how tough is it to press a button?
this country was great when we smashed all that stood against us.

Anonymous said...

Sir Eric Berthoud and Richard Rapier Stokes MP mortgaged a problem for the future ... for us.

Rapier Stokes had a lot of businessinterests in Iran and Berthoud was a BP/MI6 type.

Install a puppet Shah, set up a government over others.

Rapier Stokes had previously been involved with the Vatican ratlines helping Nazi war criminals escxape and championed the cause of whole SS units to settle in UK postwar.

Whether these ex SS men were then recruited into secret networks (Gladio) ?? And available with their successors 25 years later to help overthrow an elected government in UK by armed insurrection.

The founder of the Gladio operation Harry Sporborg (not a mile from Berthoud and Rapier Stokes) did a similar trick here ... selecting a government for the people. He was involved in steering his puppet politician Maggie Thatcher to power.

The destruction of our coal industry stopped thirty years of research into coal based clean energy. And left us vulnerable as we are now reliant on overseas suppliers of fuel totally.

A bit of a circle. Those who meddled in Iran went on to undermine our own democracy and also left us too weak to even contemplate kicking arse with a bit of gunboat diplomacy.

Thanks Maggie and Co.

Anonymous said...

Thank Richard Rapier Stokes MP, Sir Eric Berthoud, Airey Neave, Maggie Thatcher and Harry Sporborg eh.

If only we had kept the mines open so as to have developed clean coal technology and some independence of energy supply.

Apart from an SAS miracle raid, we cannot kick arse.