Iran plans to charge five British yachtsmen as spies
Tehran is thinking in terms of prosecuting the five British yachtsmen seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval commandos on their way from Bahrain to Dubai last month. Tuesday, Dec. 1, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff said: “The judiciary will decide about the five… but naturally Iran will take hard and serious measures if we find out they had evil intentions.”
debkafile‘s Iranian and intelligence sources report that the Iranians plan to claim that instruments for tracking aircraft, missiles and electronic jamming devices were found aboard that the Kingdom of Bahrain racing yacht, detained near the island of Sirri. They will try and counter the British Foreign Office claim that the sailors were innocent civilians who strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters on their way to a racing meet.
The British foreign office waited a week before disclosing the incident on Monday, Nov. 30 – apparently after fruitless negotiations for the release of the five sailors, Luke Porter, David Bloomer, who is an English broadcaster for Bahrain radio, Oliver Smith, Oliver Young and Sam Ushr.
According to Tehran, even if the yacht strayed off course, the crew was experienced enough to reach the island of Abu Musa opposite Dubai and their craft should have been found between Abu Musa opposite Dubai and not between Abu Musa and Sirri where it was stopped.
The incident plays into Tehran’s hands at a particularly low moment in UK-Iran relations, occurring as it did when the Islamic Republic was in the middle of a large-scale air defense exercise and heading for a major crisis with world powers. Tehran may now try and force one or more of the detainees to confessing they were spying on Iranian’s systems for defending its nuclear sites.
debkafile‘s military sources note that Tehran’s is hypersensitive to any movements around the cluster of islands situated close to the Straits of Hormuz because Revolutionary Guards bases on Abu Musa,Sirri, Big Tunb and Little Tunb provide Iran with its first line of defenses against air and missile attack. The systems installed there are intended to intercept hostile aircraft and missiles before they penetrate mainland Iran or try to bomb targets in Iran from the outside, while still over the Persian Gulf.
This network of defense installations and their integration into the aid defense systems protecting Iran’s nuclear facilities were the focus of its air defense exercise last month. The islands dotted around Iran’s Persian Gulf coast also house large naval and shore-to-sea missile bases.
The Islamic regime can be expected to blow the British yachting case up into a major feature of the landscape of rising tension with the West. Tehran has a special reckoning with London, alleging the Brits took a hand in its violent post-election protests last June.
Three American backpackers who strayed across the Iraq-Iran Kurdish border in July are still detained and face charges of spying. Wednesday, Iranian “students” have been called out to demonstrate outside the British embassy in Tehran Wednesday in protest against “the Britons’ illegal entry” into Iranian waters.