The Australian military Friday confirmed Iranian gunboats tried to capture Australian sailors near the sea border between Iran and Iraq, saying the incident occurred more than two years ago.Â
The confirmation of the December 2004 stand-off followed a BBC report that a Royal Australian Navy vessel repelled the Iranians by training their guns on them and using “highly colourful language.”
The incident was compared to the capture of 15 British sailors in similar circumstances in the Gulf in March this year, which sparked a major diplomatic row between London and Tehran. They were released nearly two weeks later.
BBC reporter Frank Gardner told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the Australians had acted quickly and adopted a “pretty robust attitude” to see off the Iranians.
“The point of this story is not that the Aussies were fantastically brave and the Brits were a bunch of cowards, although I’m sure (that’s how) some people will interpret it,” Gardner told the AM program.
“Lessons should have been drawn from what happened to the Australian crew.
“They reacted, I’m told, incredibly quickly, whereas the Brits were caught at their most vulnerable moment climbing down off the ship getting into their boats.”
An Australian defence spokesman said the 2004 stand-off between navy personnel and up to five Iranian gunboats lasted four hours.
Commodore Steve Gilmore said the incident began when an Iranian Revolutionary Guard gunboat began making “very overt gestures” as it moved towards an Australian boarding party leaving a cargo vessel they had just searched.
Gilmore said the Australian group’s commander ordered his crew to reboard the cargo ship.
“He got his boarding party back on to the ship and established a very credible and appropriate defensive position,” Gilmore told reporters in Canberra.
Officials in London have insisted that the British troops captured this year had been carrying out routine anti-smuggling operations in Iraqi waters, but Iran claimed they had crossed the border