Des Browne expressed , "a degree of regret which can be equated with an apology."
It is agreed that he has done everything to surmount the immediate difficulties but we remain little wiser about what happened on the 15th March. (Full text BBC here)
At 0753, Cornwall launched two boats, with a Lynx helicopter in support, with the intention to board MV Tarawa, a merchant vessel that had evaded a boarding the day before.
En route, the Lynx flew over a different vessel, the MV Al Hanin, and reported a suspect cargo. A decision was made (by whom?) to board the Al Hanin. The position was well inside Iraqi waters.
Note this is the first time the vessel boarded has been named or the original intention of the boarding party explained.
We are told that the Lynx @ 10.04 local time was able to see one the rib boats being escorted to Iran by Iranian vessels.
Since that time no further stop and search by the Royal Navy has been undertaken awaiting instructions from Persian Gulf HQ (PGHQ)- other although coalition partners are undertaking the work.
Apparently the rib boat crew queried the Lynx returning to ship and also the total failure of comms, very shortly after they were seized / kidnapped.
Which still leaves open the belief that this was an event which was designed and executed to create an incident to exacerbate tension in the region. It is highly unlikely that The Governor General of Gibralter Lt. General Sir Rob Fulton after his 6 week (?) enquiry is going to make it any clearer for us.
The evident lack of resolve, the muddle, the incompetence at all levels, in the services and the political elites will give both any enemies and the few friends the UK has in the region good cause to question both their leadership and effectiveness.
Never have we been in greater need of one of the greatest British admirals, Jackie Fisher, famous for the remark, which Des could well have heeded, before he stood on his hind legs this afternoon ..."Never apologise, never explain".