Pray for the British soldiers who were abducted by Iran and are now going to be put on trial for spying. The Iranians may be all bluster, but they may also be trying to provoke a conflict to boost oil prices and throw us Brits and Americans off our game. The soldiers caught in the middle are in a lot of danger.

FIFTEEN British sailors and marines arrested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards off the coast of Iraq may be charged with spying.

A website run by associates of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, reported last night that the Britons would be put before a court and indicted.

Referring to them as “insurgents”, the site concluded: “If it is proven that they deliberately entered Iranian territory, they will be charged with espionage. If that is proven, they can expect a very serious penalty since according to Iranian law, espionage is one of the most serious offences.”

Punishable, obviously, by death. The British deny that their soldiers were in Iranian waters.

Admiral Sir Alan West, the former head of the Royal Navy, dismissed suggestions that the British boats might have been in Iranian waters. West, who was first sea lord when the previous arrests took place in June 2004, said satellite tracking systems had shown then that the Iranians were lying and the same was certain to be true now.

It's interesting to read that recently updated sanctions might be hurting the Iranian leadership enough to motivate this sort of provocation.

Intelligence sources said any advance order for the arrests was likely to have come from Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards.

Subhi Sadek, the Guards’ weekly newspaper, warned last weekend that the force had “the ability to capture a bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks”.

Safavi is known to be furious about the recent defections to the West of three senior Guards officers, including a general, and the effect of UN sanctions on his own finances.

Sanctions must hit rogue leadership personally to be effective, since most tyrannies don't care how much the regular people of the country suffer. Good for America and the UK for insisting on tough sanctions.

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