Wargaming Iran bumped on new developments

UPDATE from very early a.m. posting (9:35 a.m.): Pictures just released on MSNBC. There is also a letter allegedly written
by one of the sailors saying they were definitely in Iranian waters. It is not known (–ahem–) if she was forced to write the letter.
… to add (via an email), there are questions about the Brits’ map.

VIDEO with MSNBC translation of Iranian broadcast.

VIDEO: Wargaming Iran

According to CNN, more than 100 planes and 13 escort ships were involved. These exercises were planned “a couple of days ago,” after the British sailors were taken. We’ve officially got game on.

The story of the captured British sailors has been in the news for several days.
As I said on my radio show yesterday, I’ve been waiting to see what develops, because there wasn’t enough information and jumping to conclusions never helps in these types of situations. Besides, I’m not Sean Hannity, who went off right after it happened saying it’s “a declaration
of war” and the U.S. should allow Britain to arrest Ahmadinejad during his U.S. visit (which was eventually canceled). What a nitwit.

Well, the situation has now escalated. Through these war games, the U.S. Navy and George W. Bush sent
a powerful message to the Iranian hardliners. It was unmistakable. This is the type of thing that can escalate quickly, so everyone should get
prepared. Blair made the rhetorical move yesterday.

Prime Minister Tony Blair warned on Tuesday that his government could be
forced to make public its proof that a captured British navy crew was in Iraqi
waters when seized by Iran, saying the standoff may move into a “different
phase” if diplomacy fails to win their release.

Britain has said the crew was detained Friday after completing a search of
a civilian vessel in the Iraqi part of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the
border with Iran is disputed.

Blair’s office said Tuesday that the sailors were well inside Iraqi territorial
waters when they were seized. “This is not a case of marginally being
in Iraqi waters, but in Iraqi waters,” Blair’s official spokesman said,
on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

Blair Warns
Iran Standoff May Move to ‘Different Phase’

According to the Brits, there is not an “indefinite approach” to the current negotiations going on with the Iranians. What that means we don’t know right
now, but U.S. war games right after the incident aren’t an accident, that’s
for sure. More
came out yesterday.

Britain’s ambassador to Iran, Geoffrey Adams, also held talks with Iranian
diplomats Tuesday, as a U.S. official gave the first detailed account of the
incident that sparked the seizure of the Britons.

The British crew had boarded an Indian-flagged commercial ship when they
were seized Friday by Iranian naval forces.

“It was an Indian-flagged vessel. It was suspected of being involved
in automobile smuggling (into Iraq),” said Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman
for the U.S. 5th Fleet, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press
from fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain.

Aandahl said the captain of the Indian ship had provided a statement that
his vessel was in Iraqi waters at the time it was stopped by the British.
He said U.S. officials knew the GPS coordinates of the ship at the time the
incident occurred, but would not release them publicly.

Boundaries between Iraqi and Iranian parts of the Shatt al-Arab waterway
have long been disputed. “They have never come to an agreement as to
who actually controls those waters,” said Sara Russell, an instructor
at the Maritime Institute of Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Virginia.

Asked whether he thought Iran was retaliating for the arrest of five Iranians
by U.S. forces in Iraq, Blair said that should have absolutely no bearing
at all on the fate of the sailors.

“Any Iranian forces who are inside Iraq are breaching the U.N. mandate
and undermining the democratically elected government of Iraq, so they have
got no cause to be there at all,” Blair said.

The sailors were likely taken after because of a new round of United Nations Security Council
sanctions being imposed on Iran for their continued uranium enrichment. They’re
reported unharmed at this point. There are also reports that the sailors were taken by elite units of the mullahs. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a contradiction in terms. Reported rumors also add that Ahmadinejad is not involved in this act. Sprinkle a grain of salt here.

There has never been a more important moment for the Iran legislation recently introduced by James Webb (video).

The clock is ticking. Tensions are rising.