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4/4/2007
COMING HOME. BUT AT WHAT PRICE?
CATEGORY: Iran, WORLD POLITICS

It appears that the hostage crisis in Iran is over. President Ahmadinejad has “pardoned” the British sailors and has given them back to Britain as a “gift:”

During his press conference taking place right now, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just announced that he has “pardoned” the British marines and sailors and that they will be released as a “gift” to Britain. (Sky News live broadcast, no link)

The presser is still going on as I speak, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a press conference since, as is his wont, the talkative Ahmadiinejad is apparently asking and answering his own questions. And being a long winded sort of fellow, the hostages may be in for a long wait for freedom:

Iran is to free the 15 UK sailors and marines taken captive in the Shatt al Arab waterway as a “gift” to Britain.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the group would be released promptly and handed over to the British embassy in Tehran.

He said he had pardoned the sailors as a gift to the British people and to mark the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and Easter.

He made the pledge after awarding medals to the “brave” border guards who arrested the Britons.

“I would like to thank the Iranian coast guard for courgeously defending our Iranian territorial waters,” he said.

He then pinned medals on the chests of three Coast Guard officers. The ceremony was performed during a broadcast broadcast around the world.

While the release of the hostages is welcome news (and I doubt that Blair would turn them away no matter what Ahmadinejad had made them out to be), the Iranian president’s “pardon” of the sailors is hugely significant. It presupposes that the sailors had done something wrong in the first place - an idea directly at odds with what the British government has been saying since the crisis began. In the end, Ahmadinejad found a way to humiliate the Brits while coming out smelling like a rose himself thanks to his “Easter gift” to the British people.

I realize that this is news and must be covered. I also realize that reporters sitting in Tehran are not about to get up and call out the Iranians on this shameless, nauseating piece of propaganda.

But the commentary I’m hearing on the voice over from Skye News is unbelievable. No mention that this is so obvious a propaganda dog and pony show. No comment about what a “pardon” for people who have done nothing wrong might mean. And certainly nothing about how this has placed Ahmadinejad on the top of the heap once again in Iran.

For the last 3 or 4 days, some of the less fanatical leaders in Iran (I will not refer to them as “moderates” or “pragmatists” which makes a mockery of the English language in so doing) shoved Ahmadinejad and his radical brethren to the sidelines in this dispute, working the phones and trying to get the British to agree to some kind of language where the Brits would admit to violating Iranian territorial waters without actually saying so. And they seemed to be making some progress.

And then, out of the clear blue, Ahmadinejad grabs the bull by the horns and “pardons” them all and then pins medals on the border guards who kidnapped the sailors illegally in the first place. Hard to beat that kind of chutzpah. In one fell swoop, he has scored an incredible propaganda victory for the regime, making them look like reasonable human beings instead of the drooling fanatics they are portrayed as being. And he has humiliated one of the great powers of Europe, making them accept his definition of what happened and acquiescing in his “pardon” of the innocent sailors. Ahmadinejad even managed to go over the heads of the British government by offering the sailors as a “gift” to the British people - no doubt many of whom will be eternally grateful that the thug didn’t torture and behead them while they were in his custody.

The effect of these gestures was to cut the less fanatical mullahs off at the knees, leaving them looking like idiots for trying to get the Brits to agree to language that would have been problematic in the extreme when all Ahmadinejad had to do to get exactly the same result was unilaterally declare the Brits in the wrong by pardoning the sailors.

Pretty brilliant stuff.

I have no doubt this has emboldened Ahmadinejad and his radical brethren although they’d be daft to try something like this on the United States. More likely, Iran will continue to probe the periphery of the west, searching for weakness and exploiting it when they can. Clearly, they are now big-time players in the Middle East - something they have been pointing to since long before our invasion of Iraq - and will either cause our allies to buckle and try and make the best accommodations possible with Tehran or they will look to the US for assistance.

Given the ever more strident calls for our leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of those allied with Tehran in the first place, I doubt whether our allies in the region are feeling encouraged today.

UPDATE

Ed Morrissey, celebrating the return home of his beloved First Mate following kidney transplant surgery, takes a slightly less optimistic view of the Iranian victory:

Ahmadinejad makes the most out of the reversal. Facing the threat of a blockade if Iran pressed this any further, he gets to look magnanimous while still maintaining the notion that he could have tried the sailors for espionage, even while dressed in uniform. It’s a net win, allowing the Iranians to feel as though they won a tactical victory while avoiding having to back up their rhetoric with action.

Whether this is a win for Tony Blair remains to be seen. He stuck with negotiations and got the 15 back, and he didn’t have to apologize for a violation that never occurred. On the surface, it looks great — an end to the crisis without a shot being fired. It’s what happened below the surface and behind the scenes that will determine how Blair fared against Ahmadinejad. What did the British have to give up in order to get their personnel back?

First, it would have taken a helluva lot of provocation for the Brits to have instituted (or asked our help in instituting) a blockade. I don’t think that was ever a serious option as long as the Iranians didn’t put the sailors on trial.

Secondly, few questions will be asked of Blair about the resolution of this crisis. As Ed says, he got them home and nobody died. No doubt the left in Britain will trumpet this “victory” and compare it unfavorably to something the US may have done. But because they have the introspective capabilities of a three toed sloth, the British left will fail to realize that Ahmadinejad has forced the Brits to tacitly admit that everything the Iranians said about the sailors was true; that they were spying, they were in Iranian waters deliberately, and that the British government is a bunch of liars for trying to say differently.

But hey! Nobody died!

And Allah sees the pardon as a sign of weakness on Ahmadinejad’s part:

The fact that they let/made Ahmadinejad make the announcement smacks of a face-saving gesture. According to the Times, Ahmadinejad’s hardliners were split with the pragmatists about how far to pursue confrontation here. You may remember the Times of London claimed a few days ago that the hardliners themselves were split, with the head of the Revolutionary Guard advocating that the sailors be freed. Sounds like “Mahdi” and his crew lost the debate but Khamenei threw him a bone by letting him look powerful and magnanimous by framing the release as a presidential pardon. The fact that it’s a pardon also assumes that a crime was committed, of course, which is another face-saving gesture.

The question now, given the de facto prisoner exchange yesterday involving that Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq, is how much Britain — or we — gave up to make this happen.

Allah points to a report out of Iran that apparently we are going to allow an Iranian diplomat to look in on the Rev guards we captured at Irbil a few weeks ago.

“Quid pro quo, Clarice…”?

By: Rick Moran at 9:38 am
10 Responses to “COMING HOME. BUT AT WHAT PRICE?”
  1. 1
    The Sandbox Trackbacked With:
    10:03 am 

    Iran To Free British Hostages…

    From Sky News:Iran is to free the 15 UK sailors and marines taken captive in the Shatt al Arab waterway as a gift to Britain. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the group would be released promptly and handed over to the…

  2. 2
    Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator Trackbacked With:
    10:46 am 

    Iranian Leader Says He’ll Free Britons…

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would free the 15 detained British sailors and marines Wedne…

  3. 3
    Pajamas Media Trackbacked With:
    10:57 am 

    Iran To Release British Hostages…

    Awarding the medals for arresting the British marines and sailors…… and meeting with the hostages as they are being released During his press conference taking place right now, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just announced that he has “…

  4. 4
    mikeyslaw Said:
    11:26 am 

    The whole thing is Bush’s fault. Yeah, that’s it, really.

  5. 5
    A Blog For All Trackbacked With:
    11:48 am 

    Resolution in Iran-Britain Standoff at Hand?…

    One looming question, if this story pans out, then becomes who blinked and the ramifications of this act going forward. Ahmadinejad also uses the opportunity to rail against the US and British involvment in Iraq saying that they are responsible for t…..

  6. 6
    zhorkon Said:
    3:44 pm 

    Most of this talk about how the Brits really came out against the Mullahs – or Tony versus Mahmoud – is really neither here nor there: Both Britain and Iran will ’spin’ the story their own way and try to ‘win’ the ongoing propaganda war – especially amongst their own constituencies.

    What will really make a difference is how the Brits subsequently react – militarily – to this latest Iranian provacation. If the Royal Navy changes its ‘rules of engagement’ robustly and simply blows away the next bunch of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ boats that come anywhere near their operations – as they are quite capable of doing with the proper political backing in Whitehall – the Brits will ultimately come out on top.

    Alas, if the British politicians – like their American Democrat counterparts – decide to fold their tents and go home from the region ASAP, the Mullahs will clearly have won.

    Either way, though, a major war is coming. Baring regime change in Iran, their aggressive and possibly unhinged leaders will keep pushing until the Western democracies finally let them have it. This incident is a sideshow, like the Panay and Allison incidents in Japanese-invaded China were during the late 1930s.

  7. 7
    John Said:
    10:43 pm 

    Where Iran erred, in terms of a long-term strategy, was in taking British hostages instead of Americans. While Blair and Great Britain are seen by the left as George Bush’s poodle, you really can’t gin up the worldwide hatred of the Brits the way you can Bush and the Americans (the truly lame efforts by some media outlets and bloggers on the left to try and blame Bush for the entire thing showed how weak the Iranians’ hand was, as far as trying to stretch this thing out into a long-term strategy, the way they did back in 1979 with Carter).

    On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Iran does try to commandeer some American troops as hostages in the near future, either through some similar sort of Persian Gulf action or (more likely) via some patrol ambush/kidnap effort along the Iran-Iraq border. Given the far left’s Rosie O’Donnell-like ability to believe Ahmadinejad over Blair in the just concluded crisis, even when Iran’s own release on the location of the Gulf incident put the navy troops in Iraqi waters, they’ll lap up any claim Iran makes against American troops if they were to be abducted and taken to Tehran.

  8. 8
    The Oxford Medievalist Trackbacked With:
    5:19 am 

    “Pardon” Me, Mr. Ahmadinejad?…

    The latest instance of Iranian international insolence appears to have come to an end today, as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the surprise announcement at a Tehran press conference that the 15 British sailors and Marines held captive for 1…

  9. 9
    Chris Winston Said:
    5:43 am 

    They were NOT taken IN the Shatt al-Arab. Why is that *still* being reported?!? Coordinates of the hostage taking clearly put the incident IN the Persian Gulf which is not the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Near by, yes, but not in it.

  10. 10
    NixGuy.com » Release of the Hostages Pinged With:
    7:10 am 

    [...] RightWingNuthouse has summed up what happened: For the last 3 or 4 days, some of the less fanatical leaders in Iran (I will not refer to them as “moderates” or “pragmatists” which makes a mockery of the English language in so doing) shoved Ahmadinejad and his radical brethren to the sidelines in this dispute, working the phones and trying to get the British to agree to some kind of language where the Brits would admit to violating Iranian territorial waters without actually saying so. And they seemed to be making some progress. [...]

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