Is it culturally bigoted to compare the Iranian mullahs to Persian rug merchants? (Note: According to this site, referring to an Arab as a rug merchant is considered racist. Since everyone knows that Persians are not Arabs – just ask any Arab who remembers every Persian invasion over the last 1000 years – I think I’m on safe ground with the language Nazis of the left.)
If the shoe fits…
Actually, the entire British hostage episode is turning into something of a rug merchant joke, reminiscent of haggling in a bazaar over the price of a piece of carpet only to have the merchant raise the price after you agree to his final offer. “Ah! But this is a special carpet with magical properties,” says the merchant. “Surely you wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for a carpet that flies, no?”
And that’s just about where the Brits are with the Iranians at this point in the drama, as the mullahs, after saying they would let the female hostage go today, appear to have reneged on that promise and have now upped the price by saying that Tony Blair’s government must grovel before Darius and the mighty Persians:
Iran may delay the release of the female British sailor if Britain takes the issue to the U.N. Security Council or freezes relations, the country’s top negotiator Ali Larijani said Thursday.
Speaking on Iranian state radio, Larijani said: “British leaders have miscalculated this issue.”
If Britain follows through with its policies on the 15 British sailors and marines detained by Iran last week, Larijani said “this case may face a legal path” – a clear reference to Iran’s prosecuting the sailors in court.
How have the Brits “miscalculated?” They actually believed the Iranians when they said they would release the woman. That was mistake number one. Their second mistake was not seeing this coming a mile away; the beginning of the attempt to humiliate Great Britain:
Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that Britain must admit that its 15 sailors and marines entered Iranian waters in order to resolve a standoff over their capture by the Mideast nation.
Manouchehr Mottaki’s statement in an interview with The Associated Press came on a day of escalating tensions, highlighted by an Iranian video of the detained Britons that showed the only woman captive saying her group had “trespassed” in Iranian waters. Britain angrily denounced the video as unacceptable and froze most dealings with the Mideast nation.
The Iranian official also backed off a prediction that the female sailor, Faye Turney, could be freed Wednesday or Thursday, but said Tehran agreed to allow British officials to meet with the detainees.
Mottaki said that if the alleged entry into Iranian waters was a mistake “this can be solved. But they have to show that it was a mistake. That will help us to end this issue.”
Please note the escalation of Iranian demands the longer this thing goes on. They apparently are seeking a replay of the American hostage drama from 27 years ago when the students would come out every couple of months with an ever changing, ever shifting set of demands that would have to be met before we got our people back. Then, just as the Carter Administration would buckle, the students would up the ante. How many times did President Carter or one of his aides announce the imminent end to the hostage drama only to have negotiations blow up in their faces when the Iranians shifted gears and add another “condition” to the release of our diplomats?
The question should be asked why the Brits should acknowledge something that isn’t true:
In London, British military officials released new information about the seizure, saying satellite positioning readings showed the vessels were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters.
Vice Adm. Charles Style gave the satellite coordinates as 29 degrees 50.36 minutes north latitude and 48 degrees 43.08 minutes east longitude. He said that position had been confirmed by an Indian-flagged merchant ship boarded by the sailors and marines.
He also told reporters the Iranians had provided a geographical position Sunday that he said was in Iraqi waters. By Tuesday, he said, Iranian officials had given a revised position 2 miles to the east, inside Iranian waters.
“It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of coordinates,” Style said.
Wonderful British understatement! The Iranians provide a position that clearly shows the men were in Iraqi waters but when they realize they goofed, they pretend the first set of numbers were never released and simply make sh*t up.
To be completely accurate, the boundaries for the Shatt-al-Arab waterway where the Brits were kidnapped has been in dispute for centuries. The problem for the Iranians is that the Brits were clearly in Iraqi territorial waters under a mandate from the UN (UN SEC RES 1723) and at the invitation of the Iraqi government. The waterway is a bone of contention between Iraq and Iran and was one of numerous issues that led to the Iran-Iraq War in 1980. But the British sailors were in internationally recognized waters belonging to Iraq. Of this, there is no doubt.
But such minor details like what actually happened don’t trouble the Iranians. They have much bigger fish to fry. They have a western nation to humiliate and make an example of and nothing is going to stand in the way of that goal.
So far, the Blair government has been firm but not bellicose. Fat lot of good that did them when the Iranians, sensing weakness, now threaten to put the sailors on trial unless the Brits grovel before them and tell the world what everyone knows to be false; that they were in Iranian waters when they were illegally taken.
I fully expect the UN to issue what passes for ringing denunciations. In UNese, this means calling on “both parties” to exercise restraint while politely suggesting to the Iranian thugs holding the sailors that they be good sports and not be too beastly to the Brit hostages. And if they could see their way clear to letting them go, they would have the eternal gratitude of the UN - something the Iranians might find a little ironic since the Security Council has just slapped a few more sanctions on their heads for trying to build a nuclear bomb.
There are some whispers coming out of western capitals that this latest hostage grab is actually a symptom of a power struggle within the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad may have felt his power ebbing away and decided on carrying out an operation guaranteed to whip the population into a frenzy of patriotic feeling. Meanwhile, the less radical faction (I just can’t bring myself to call some of these galoots “moderates”) led by former presidents Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami who favor engaging the west in some kind of dialogue are trapped. If they criticize Ahmadinejad, they risk losing support of the people. If they support him, Ahmadinejad has bought himself some breathing room.
No matter whether this has anything to do with internal Iranian politics, the Brits are up against it. If this thing starts to drag on, Blair may find himself “Carterized” – shown to be impotent in the face of naked aggression. This would only embolden Iran and could lead to other hostage situations involving not only the Brits, but the United States as well.
And what about our response? Two carrier battle groups are launching F-18’s 24 hours a day, roaring off the decks and making a huge show of force. Would George Bush launch a strike against Iranian nuke and oil facilities? Not while the Brits are hostages. And this raises the question of the timing of this grab. I mentioned here that some analysts around the world think that the US is preparing to strike Iran sometime in April of this year. The Iranians can read the papers too which may mean they are hedging their bets. Sure would be awkward if the Iranians placed those Brits in various strategic sites around the country as human shields.
That last was rank speculation but the question is valid; would we attack even without the permission of the Brits? I don’t think George Bush would risk getting Blair mad at him so that option is off the table. For the moment, we wait. And the British sailors also wait to hear if their country sacrifices honor and truth just to get them back or whether Blair stands firm and, with the rest of the world behind him, gets the Iranians to back down and release the hostages.
Allah has an update that Blair will ask the UN to urge the Iranians to release the hostages immediately.
What’s very strange is that there is a “debate” scheduled for today in the Security Council.
It may seem a little forward of me to ask, them being high falutin diplomats and all, but who, praytell, is going to take the position in this “debate” that Iran is within their rights to hold 15 foreign nationals who even the Iranian government admitted on Sunday (later changing the lat/long to reflect the lie that they were picked up in Iranian waters) were in Iraqi territorial waters engaged in activity mandated by the UN and approved by the Iraqi government?
Further, if the debater is going to make the case that the Brits were engaged in “espionage,” they are going to have to explain why the sailors were boarding an Indian-flagged dhou looking for contraband in broad daylight when they were kidnapped and not sneaking around at night watching Iranian military posts and the like.
Sounds like a job for the late Johnny Cochrane or maybe the Monty Python guys could do something with it.