April 05, 2007

From Iran With Love

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From AP: Iran gains in standoff with Britain.

Iran emerged with a measure of strength from its standoff with Britain over the captured sailors ó deflecting attention from its disputed nuclear program and proving it can cause trouble in the Middle East when it chooses.

Yet the country's hardline leaders also shied away from all-out confrontation with the West ó backing down once they had flexed their power, apparently worried they might go too far. ...

Whether that is a sign of internal dissent in Iran or finely honed, clever brinkmanship, Iran clearly gained some respect from the dispute ó at least enough to make the West cautious that the Islamic regime would be willing to dive into such a tussle again. ...

Iran can't help but be pleased that for several weeks, international focus was off the [Iranian nuclear] issue.

But if Western pressure on the nuclear program gathers again, Iran will most likely respond with the same mix of fierce rhetoric and pragmatic dealing it showed during the British standoff.

Ahmadinejad hinted at that even as he announced the British sailors would go free. Speaking of U.N. Security Council sanctions that have targeted Iran's banks over the nuclear issue, he said: "If they want to create disturbances ... for parts of our economy, (our) banks, we will retaliate."

Interestingly, if the URL is any indication, the original title for this article was "Iran Out On Top."

From last week in the New York Post: HOSTAGE SAILORS -- BRITAIN'S IMPOTENCE by Arthur Herman. (via TIA Daily)

For some time, Tony Blair has been trying to show that for all his support of President Bush, he is no warmonger. He has been a consistent "softliner" on Iran's nuclear program, supporting the Europeans' search for a diplomatic solution and repeatedly insisting that any military options be taken off the table. ...

The mullahs in Tehran clearly see the new pacifist trend in Britain not as a hopeful sign of future accord, but as supine surrender. Just as clearly, they have singled out Britain as the latest weak link in the Coalition fighting in Iraq and in the War on Terror. ...

Today, British politicians seem determined to make the same mistake [made by British politicians after World War I]. They exude the spirit not of Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher but of diplomat and Labor Party stalwart Harold Nicolson, who used to sigh to friends in the dark days after France's surrender in 1940: "All we can do is lie on our backs with our paws in the air and hope that no one will stamp on our tummies."

The capture of 15 British sailors should serve as a warning. Nations cannot "opt out" of their responsibilities in the War on Terror when they feel it, like players in a pickup basketball game or cricket match.

Enemies like the mullahs and their terrorist allies recognize no time outs, no neutral ground. They see only strength and weakness, those nations they can manipulate and those they have to fear. Today they clearly feel they can pull the British lion's tail with impunity.

If the hostages are finally released unharmed, it will have a lot more to do with the presence of two American carrier groups off the Iranian coast than anything Blair is doing - and the British will have learned that what they really lost when they gave up their fleet and abandoned the fight in Iraq is their own self-respect.

UPDATE I: Jules Crittenden has an excellent round-up of opinions on the issue: Home is Where the Humiliation Is. (via LGF)

UPDATE II: At NRO: Tehranís Victory. (via TIA Daily)

By committing an act of war, Iran has simultaneously made itself look peaceful and made the West look impotent. ...

The way the crisis played out will have serious consequences in the Middle East. Iran proved that it is the regionís dominant power. Could any other country have attempted this and gotten away with it? Syria? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Surely not. Britain, meanwhile, reinforced Iranís view of the West as a decadent society that does not respond effectively to provocations and need not be feared. Perceptions matter: Recall the conclusions Osama bin Laden drew after the American retreat from Somalia. What we can expect now is greater aggression, from both Iran in particular and Islamists in general.

Thatís what we can expect, anyway, if Britain does nothing to salvage the situation. ...

Itís right to be glad that the young Britons are headed home. But into that humanitarian feeling irrupts the darker realization that their good fortune comes at an unacceptable price. Unless Britain and her allies act quickly and cleverly to show that they are, appearances notwithstanding, powers to be reckoned with, a great many lives will be at risk for a long time to come.

UPDATE III -- April 6: At FOX News: British Sailor Maintains Crew Was in Iraqi Waters When Detained by Iran.

UPDATE VI -- April 9: From The Telegraph: Buoyant Teheran warns of further kidnappings.

Hardliners in the Iranian regime have warned that the seizure of British naval personnel demonstrates that they can make trouble for the West whenever they want to and do so with impunity.

The bullish reaction from Teheran will reinforce the fears of western diplomats and military officials that more kidnap attempts may be planned.

The British handling of the crisis has been regarded with some concern in Washington, and a Pentagon defence official told The Sunday Telegraph: "The fear now is that this could be the first of many. If the Brits don't change their rules of engagement, the Iranians could take more hostages almost at will.

"Iran has come out of this looking reasonable. If I were the Iranians, I would keep playing the same game. They have very successfully muddied the waters and bought themselves some more time. And in parts of the Middle East they will be seen as the good guys. They could do it time and again if they wanted to."

Americans also expressed dismay that the British had suspended boarding operations in the Gulf while its tactics are reassessed.

"Iran has got what it wants. They have secured free passage for smuggling weapons into Iraq without a fight," one US defence department official said.

It is also clear that the Iranian government believes that the outcome has strengthened its position over such contentious issues as its nuclear programme. Hardliners within the regime have been lining up to crow about Britain's humiliation, and indicated that the operation was planned.

Posted by Forkum at April 5, 2007 04:36 PM
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