PARIS, 25 June (IPS) The release of the three British river patrol boats and their crew of eight servicemen on Thursday, 24 hours after the Army’s high command and the Government had announced their freedom is seen by Iranian observers and political analysts as another sign to the military’s mounting power in the one hand and the chaos that characterises the Iranian political scene in the aftermath of the conservatives victory in the last Legislative elections.
On Wednesday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA announced the release of the boats that had been seized by the Revolutionary Guards. But as hours passed and, no confirmation came and adding to the confusion, IRNA deleted the news without any explanation.
On Wednesday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA announced the release of the boats that had been seized by the Revolutionary Guards navy inside the Iranian waters of Arvand Roud (the Iranian name for Shat el Arab border river that runn between the two neighbours before throwing itself into the Persian Gulf), quoting Colonel Alireza Afshar, the Deputy Joint Chief of Staff for Cultural and Propaganda Department.
Less than an hour latter, the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed the decision, making headlines of newspapers and radio and televisions throughout the world.
But as hours passed and while a British diplomatic team had left for the undisclosed place where the two officers and six soldiers had been kept in custody to take charge of them, no confirmation came and adding to the confusion, IRNA deleted the news without any explanation.
The servicemen who, according to Iranian public media during interrogations had, acknowledged that they had crossed into the Iranian side of the river “by mistake” while on a mission of training Iraqi border guards on Monday where finally freed on Thursday, but without their boats.
The arrest of the British soldiers, weapons and communications gears of their boats, their custody while blindfold or with hands over their heads, their march to the interrogation centre under blazing sun, all customized to highlight the humiliation the British militaries that, alongside the Americans, have occupied Iraq, where shown primarily by al Alam television, the 24 hours Arabic service of the Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic (VVIR, or the Iranian Radio and Television).
It was Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who pushed the Guards to the forefront of political scene in order to eliminate their rivals among the ruling hard liners
With a crew of more than 60 journalists, cameramen, soundmen, technicians and cadres working in Baghdad, al Alam has the largest audience of all television networks received by the Iraqis.
Like the mother organisation that is headed by a former Revolutionary Guards officer, namely Mr. Ezzatollah Zarqami, al Alam has close links with the ruling ayatollah’s Praetorian Guard.
Hence, al Alam’s announcement on Wednesday, and hours after IRNA’s news about the release of the British boats, that the captives would “not be released before Thursday”, confirming a military source that had explained that the Revolutionary Guards “simply did not want the British to re-cross the river back into Iraq with their boats, arms and equipments making them looking like victors”.
“With more than 40 deputies sitting in the Majles, (the Iranian Parliament), and controlling the highly strategic public media, mostly the Radio and Television, Tehran’s city council, the Supreme Council on National Security and some other of the regime’s key positions, the Revolutionary Guards have become the nation’s dominant political actor”, noted Mr. Alireza Nourizadeh, an independent Iranian journalist based in London.
“It was Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, his closest friend and mentor who pushed the Guards to the forefront of political scene in order to eliminate their rivals among the ruling hard liners”, explained Mr. Ali Keshtgar, the Editor of the Paris-based “Mihan” (Motherland) monthly and a commentator on Iranian affairs.
The saga was a reminder of another event that took place on 23 May, when in a spectacular move that looks like a coup, the Guards closed the Emam Khomeini International Airport (EKIA), Tehran's newly built international airport hours after it was officially inaugurated, pretexting “national pride and security concerns”.
Mr. Mohammad Kianoosh Rad, a reformist deputy from the oil rich province of Khoozestan in the last Majles said the shutting down of the EKIA by the military is another proof that the country is run on a “small kingdoms system in which any one that is stronger applies its own laws and rules”.
“The problem is that it seems that the ghoul is out of the bottle and both men looks like being incapable to put him back in the bottle, as seen from the latest incident involving the British military boats, with the Revolutionary Guards refusing to obey orders from both the Armd Forces High Command that is directly controlled by Mr. Khameneh'i and the Government of President Mohammad Khatami”, Mr. Keshtgar pointed out. ENDS BRITISH BOATS AFTERMATH 25604