Iran apprehended British military personnel and Navy vessels earlier this week in order to secure release of 40 “suicide operations volunteers” held by the UK, according to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard source.
The source told the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the British Army command in Iraq received the demand from the Revolutionary Guard, reported the Middle East Media Research Institute.
According to the source, the content of the message was very simple: “Release our comrades, whom you are holding, and we will release your soldiers.”
The “volunteers,” who were detained by Ukranian forces in Iraq, were of great concern to the Revolutionary Guard command, the source said, because they were the first group in the “Organization for the Commemoration of the Shahids [Martyrs],” established recently by Revolutionary Guard commander Col. Dhu al-Qadr.
Iran’s foreign ministry said yesterday it was no longer holding the eight troops in custody but the handover to British officials had not yet been negotiated. Two sailors and six Royal Marines were detained Monday after their boats apparently strayed on to the Iranian side of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which borders Iraq.
The London paper reported a senior leader of the Revolutionary Guard, who formerly was head of the Committee for Iran-Ukraine Military Cooperation, went to Kiev for talks regarding the Iranian detainees.
However, the Ukrainian units already had handed over the 40 to British forces in southern Iraq.
The source told the London paper the British command had refused to acknowledge it was holding the Iranians in one of its detention camps. This, the source said, caused the Revolutionary Guard leadership to seek a “semi-military solution” to bring its men back from Iraq.
The paper said the seizure of the British vessels is of great concern to Iranian President Muhammad Khatemi, because foreign relations is the only area that remains in his control after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others in the country’s cleric-based leadership reduced his powers.