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Kidnapping of Iraqis indicates Iran's plans for Shatt Al-Arab

Iran's kidnapping of Iraqi coast guards in the Shatt Al-Arab is an indication of the regime's continuing hostile stance over the disputed waterway, claims the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS).

Nine Iraqi coast guards were seized and one allegedly killed at the weekend during a clash on the waterway that separates the Iraqi province of Basra from Iran's Arab-populated province of Khuzestan. Mohammed al-Waili, the regional governor of Basra, claimed that the Iraqi coastguards had boarded an Iranian ship, the Nour 1, which was suspected of smuggling oil in Iraqi waters when they were overpowered by an Iranian patrol. Iran took aggressive action against the Iraqi coast guards despite the supposedly warm relations between the governments of both countries.

The kidnappings come in the context of Iran's continuing militarisation of its southern border with Iraq, with thousands of Ahwazi Arabs being expelled from their lands around Mohammarah (Khorammshahr), Abadan and Minoo (Salboukh) Island. The process of ethnic cleansing and land confiscation is being carried out under the auspices of the Arvand Free Zone Organisation, which was set up ostensibly to improve trade links with Iraq and strengthen national security. Click here for more information.

BAFS spokesperson Nasser Bani-Assad said: "Apart from being a serious human rights issue, any development that involves people being displaced by force obviously has a security element to it as they clearly do not want people being too near.

"The fact that they are deciding to put this huge complex right up against the border is significant. We think this is to enable them to train and send militias over the border.

"The aggressive action taken against Iraqi coast guards indicates that Iran wishes to control the Shatt Al-Arab to an extent that it is willing to jeopardise its close relations with the Iraqi government. No-one should place any confidence in the Iranian regime's displays of 'good faith' towards Iraq. It wishes to control Iraq according to its own agenda, just as it is attempting to take control of the Palestinian cause.

"The world must wake up to the plight of the Ahwazi Arabs and realise that their suffering has serious implications for regional and global security."