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Reuters reports that the Iranian mullahs apparently intend to inflame tensions even further in the Gulf region. Yesterday they captured three British patrol boats and held eight British sailors prisoner. Diplomatic scuttlebutt implied that the Iranians just wanted to make sure everyone knew that they had an eye on the CPA in Iraq and that the sailors would be shortly released. Now, however, the Iranians have decided to try the soldiers for violating Iranian waters:
Iran will prosecute eight British naval personnel seized in its waters, state television said on Tuesday, turning what seemed a minor border incident into a serious diplomatic spat. ... The eight were arrested on Monday on the Shatt al-Arab waterway which marks the southern stretch of Iraq's border with Iran. Britain said the group were training Iraqi police and were delivering a boat to an Iraqi river patrol.
Quoting unnamed Iranian military sources, Iran's Arabic language news channel al Alam said the men would be prosecuted on charges of "illegally entering Iran's waters."
Unlike the US, the British have maintained diplomatic relations with the mullahcracy in Iran, attempting to keep a line open into the heart of Islamofascism. Instead of operating with some flexibility for the British, the Iranians have paid the Brits back by humiliating them on the world stage and promises of more embarrassment by staging show trials of their servicemen. It's the 1979 hostage crisis redux, instead this time the captives are British ... and the Anglo-American leaders aren't Jimmy Carter and James Callaghan.
Someone needs to take the temperature of the mullahs who signed off on this idea. First, it is widely accepted that the source of most support for Islamofascist terror, especially in Israel and Southwest Asia, is the Islamic Republic of Iran. They continue to intrigue in southern Iraq, mostly to failure with Moqtada al-Sadr, but have built up four divisions on its border with Iraq as well. They fund and host Hezb' Allah and provide support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Some intelligence reports that Iran has provided material assistance to al-Qaeda, and Iran itself admitted having AQ leadership "in custody" at one point in 2002. In a war on terror, Iran will at some point rise to the top of the target list if they continue this pattern.
Given all of that, and throwing in the strongly-worded IAEA report that Iran has not been forthcoming in its compliance with nuclear nonproliferation agreements, and it seems as though the mullahs are almost begging for a military engagement with the West. Perhaps they think that the nascent Iranian nuclear program will provide some deterrence, but trying prisoners captured in uniform is an act of war, and Tony Blair and George Bush have already shown little patience for such provocations. Expect to see the UK ramp up the diplomatic pressure and perhaps even introduce a UNSC resolution demanding the release and promising significant consequences for refusal.
The mullahs may have begun the process of Iranian liberation, although I doubt they'll appreciate the irony.
UPDATE: Not mad at all, at least not according to National Review's Michael Ledeen:
... [I]f an Iranian action seems stupid, you're probably misinterpreting it. There's a perfectly straightforward explanation for the whole episode: The Brits were laying down a network of sensors to detect the movement of ships toward major Iraqi oil terminals. The Iranians considered that a bit of a threat. So they attacked.
And why, you might ask, did the Iranians feel threatened?
Because they were planning to attack (or have their surrogates attack) the oil terminals, silly.
And why attack the oil terminals?
Because they want to defeat President Bush in November, and they figure if they can get the price of oil up to around $60 a barrel, he'll lose to Kerry. Not to mention a considerable side benefit: At $60 a barrel, they can buy whatever they may be lacking to get their atomic bombs up and running.
It's not that hard to understand the mullahs once you learn to think as they do, and understand their hopes and fears.
It sounds plausible, but if the Iranians think that they can continue to control the Brits by publicly humiliating them (as Ledeen claims), I think the mullahs may be in for a bit of a surprise. I also think that the US may start patrolling the waterway, just in case Ledeen and the mullahs are right.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on June 22, 2004 9:26 PM
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