There is another mostly unknown case from 2005, that was only just recently resolved. German Donald Klein chartered a fishing boat captained by Frenchman Stephane Lherbier out of Dubai in the United Arab Emerates. They were captured by an island, Abu Musa, that is claimed by both Iran and the UAE, although Iran currently occupies the island.
The two on the boat were accused of fishing in Iranian waters. The French skipper Stephane Lherbier was released earlier this year. Mr. Klein was just released this month after serving 15 months in an Iranian prison of an 18 month sentence. Not to give the impression that the Iranians were totally heartless in this matter, they did offer the German Government a way to end the issue:
"Germany has on repeated occasions tried to free Klein, with German President Horst Koehler intervening unsuccessfully. Iranian diplomats have recently hinted that a release of an Iranian agent in German custody would help Klein's case. However, it is unclear whether Berlin has accepted that deal; observers say such a move is highly unlikely." - UPI
Nice guys right? I can understand detaining people illegally in your country, but then releasing them, especially when the act is clearly unintentional. (Imagine the international outcry if the US put everyone who illegally crossed into the US in jail!) After all, it is not like they were caught along the coast with spy gear or anything. Then again, according to Willisms, Iran has placed silkworm missiles on the island, which is something that a person fishing off the coast might spot. And why would Iran not place weapons on the island, since it is in a perfect position in the middle of the Gulf.
As you can see, the international Shipping Lanes go right through Iranian Waters. All vessels have the right to transit through the shipping lanes under the right of innocent passage.
Innocent passage is a concept in Admiralty law which allows for a vessel to pass through the territorial waters of another state subject to certain restrictions. The United States Department of Defense defines innocent passage as:
"The right of all ships to engage in continuous and expeditious surface passage through the territorial sea and archipelagic waters of foreign coastal states in a manner not prejudicial to its peace, good order, or security. Passage includes stopping and anchoring, but only if incidental to ordinary navigation or necessary by force majeure or distress, or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships, or aircraft in danger or distress." - Wikipedia
This works fine, provided that the 'Coastal State' acts in good faith. This is surely not the case with Iran. Also, the shipping lanes provide Iran with no shortage of targets that they can pick and choose from and when they strike, they can claim that the vessel was actually spying and in violation of the right to innocent passage. It does not matter that it is a lie, as in the current UK hostage situation, since they would be holding the vessel and crew, and have assumed that the UK will not resort to force.
Not happy to have control of the Northern and mid Gulf, Iran has taken the southern half of the Strait of Hormuz, which belongs to Oman:
One of the key developments that has absorbed Washington’s attention deeply, and resulted in the very significant personal involvement of Vice President Dick Cheney, was the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have invaded and seized almost all meaningful control of the strategic Masandam Peninsula in Oman - a peninsula that covers the Southern mouth of the Straight of Hormuz. (Note: See map above) Occupying this peninsula solidifies Iran’s complete control of the straight. The Northern chokepoint has long been Iran’s; the Southern chokepoint has long been Oman’s. They are now both Iran’s. - Pat Dollard (As found from this Eagle Speak Post)
Kidnapping crews of vessels (and pleasure craft) is a huge threat, and Iran has a history of kidnapping people. This post provides one more example. I wonder how many more hostages Iran is holding that we are not aware of.
And now that they have increased their 'footprint' to cover both halves of the entrance to the Persian Gulf by taking Omanian territory hostage, giving them a free operating area to catch anyone of interest entering and leaving the Gulf, making sure that they will not target anyone who might actually retaliate. (For now.)
When will the Global community stop giving Iran a free pass for their belligerent behavior? The fact that Germany was part of the EU3 negotiating with Iran over Iran's nuclear program and they were not able to free this poor German through the normal course of negotiations does not bode well for any peaceful conclusion to whatever Iran has planned, nuclear or otherwise.