President Bush describes Iran’s seizure of fifteen British sailors and Marines as “inexcusable behavior.”
But did the Bush Administration’s anti-Iran machinations lead to the escalation in tensions that culminated in the seizure of the Brits?
One of the finest reporters on the Middle-East affairs argues that this is precisely the case.
Below you’ll find the cover story from Tuesday morning’s editions of The Independent, the London daily newspaper that publishes Robert Fisk and that has made a name for itself as a source for cutting-edge reporting on the Middle East.
The author, Patrick Cockburn, is a respected journalist who has since 1979 been a Middle East correspondent for British newspapers such as The Financial Times and The Independent.
Cockburn, the brother of Alexander, is the author most recently of a critically-acclaimed account of the Iraq quagmire, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso Books), which has been nominated for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction.
Here’s what Patrick Cockburn reports:
The Botched US Raid That Led to the Hostage Crisis
By Patrick Cockburn
A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines.
Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.
In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment.
Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil – and the angry Iranian response to it – should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf. The two senior Iranian officers the US sought to capture were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Kurdish officials.
The two men were in Kurdistan on an official visit during which they met the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, and later saw Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), at his mountain headquarters overlooking Arbil.
“They were after Jafari,” Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, told The Independent. He confirmed that the Iranian office had been established in Arbil for a long time and was often visited by Kurds obtaining documents to visit Iran. “The Americans thought he [Jafari] was there,” said Mr Hussein.