hey John, check out this article about the area where the seizure most likely took place. seems that it is not so clear where borders are in the area:http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories...MPLATE=DEFAULT
Iran's Border Muddles Captivity Issue
Published: 3/27/07, 3:25 PM EDT
By ROBERT H. REID
(AP) - Shifting river channels, national rivalries and decades-old grudges all
complicate what should be a simple question: Whether British sailors were in Iraqi or Iranian waters when they were seized by Iranian forces.
The British insist the 15 sailors and marines were in Iraqi waters of the Shatt al-Arab waterway when they were captured Friday by naval units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. At the time, the British were inspecting an Indian-flagged ship suspected of smuggling cars.
Iran is equally insistent that the incident occurred in its territorial waters. Officials in Tehran say they are investigating whether the British strayed into Iranian waters intentionally.
Neither side has released map coordinates to prove its case. Even if one side did, it is unclear that would be enough to convince the other.
"If this happened south of where the river boundary ends, knowing the coordinates wouldn't necessarily help us," said Richard Schofield of King's College in London, who is an expert on the waterway. "We have to accept the British claim with as much salt as the Iranian claim."
And, even if the incident occurred well before the spot where the river empties into the Gulf, the issue could be equally unclear - because the question of where the river border actually runs is as murky as the brown silt waters of the Shatt al-Arab.
The waterway is formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers at the southern Iraqi town of Qurnah. From there, the Shatt al-Arab, which the Iranians call the Arvand River, meanders south between Iran and Iraq until it spills into the northern Persian Gulf.
The waterway provides Iraq with its only outlet to the sea. Major port cities of both countries - Basra in Iraq and Khorramshahr and Abadan in Iran - lie on its banks.
Because the waterway is so important, both Iraq and Iran have long sought to promote their own interests in determining who has the right to use it - and under what conditions.
A 1937 treaty gave Iraq full rights to most of the Shatt al-Arab and fixed the border on the Iranian shore. Iran resented the terms, maintaining it accepted them only under pressure from the British. Lingering bitterness over the treaty may have influenced last week's Iranian action.
"The fact that British forces were involved made the (latest) incident especially sensitive for Iran," says Simon Henderson of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Iran resented this display of British dominance."
Iran scrapped the border pact in 1969. Four years later, Algeria mediated another deal setting the border in the middle of the river's most navigable channel. The river splits into a multi-channel delta as it nears the Gulf.
But Saddam Hussein tore up that treaty in 1980 and invaded Iran, setting off a bloody eight-year war.
Although the war ended without a formal peace treaty, both Iraq and Iran have generally accepted that the border runs down the middle of the main channel.
But the channel shifts due to silting. Because the two countries have not agreed on updated charts, that means there is no universal agreement on exactly where the border line runs.
If the seizure occurred near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab - which is likely - the issue becomes even more complicated because Iraq and Iran have never agreed on each others' claim to Gulf waters near the mouth of the waterway.
Without such an agreement, international law requires countries not to extend their territorial waters "beyond the median line with neighboring states," said Martin Pratt of the University of Durham in Britain.
But defining that line is difficult because of conflicting claims to rock formations, sandbars and barrier islands in the shallow waters of the northern Gulf, Pratt said.
As a result, there may be "legitimate grounds for arguing for a different definition" of those median lines, Pratt said....."