Apr 9, 2007

No Mystery Here

There is but one reason to allow these former captives to sell their stories to the media.

To generate opportunities for the dissemination of anti-Iran propaganda. The money offers an easy way to get the British service members to participate in an info-op.

The Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy were accused of undermining the reputation of Britain's armed forces last night over the decision to allow the 15 sailors and marines held by Iran to sell their stories to the media.

The navy's move to suspend its usual rules - taken "as a result of exceptional media interest" and with the agreement of the defence secretary, Des Browne - was condemned by opposition politicians, former officers and the families of dead service personnel.

Faye Turney, the only woman in the crew, has agreed a joint deal with the Sun newspaper and ITV's Tonight With Trevor McDonald for close to £100,000.

But amid the complaints about the decision, fears were voiced that it has devalued the work of other serving forces and handed Iran a propaganda victory.

Critics said it was a politically inspired move, but the MoD argued that the families of the service personnel had already been offered large sums of money to tell their stories and by allowing the former captives to speak it was able to retain some control over the story. The announcement also risked diminishing sympathy for the 15, who had been nervous of the reaction in Britain after they were seen on television in Tehran confessing to entering Iranian waters - a claim they retracted on their return.

Colonel Tim Collins, who commanded the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment in Iraq, said: "This episode has brought disgrace on the British armed forces and it comes from complete ineptitude at the top." He contrasted this case with the capture of 11 members of the Royal Irish Regiment in Sierra Leone. "They were held hostage and there was a real chance that they would be killed before they were eventually rescued by the SAS. There was not so much as a peep out of any of them afterwards, no talk and certainly no mention of money."

That's because nobody (save perhaps a few fans of Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter) gives a damn about the geopolitically insignificant nation of Sierra Leone.

No motive to gin up their stories.

Iran is a different ball of wax.

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