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June 23, 2004
Iran: Second Thoughts Or Point Made?

Bowing to international pressure -- or simply having made its point -- the Iranian government announced it would release eight British sailors and Marines captured in the waterway shared by Iran and Iraq:

Iran says it has released eight British sailors detained for illegally entering Iranian waters, according to The Associated Press news agency.

Three British boats were stopped and the eight British service members -- two sailors and six marines -- were detained Monday after Iran said they crossed into its territorial waters in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.

"The eight British sailors, including six soldiers and two ranking military officials, have been released," a Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told AP.

After making threats yesterday to put the eight on trial for illegal incursions into Iranian territory, it appeared that the Islamic Republic had deliberately attempted to start a diplomatic row with the UK, and by association the US. However, the rather sudden reversal either indicates that the mullahs have had a change of heart -- as I pointed out yesterday, neither Tony Blair nor George Bush could be confused with Jimmy Carter -- or they already got the intended result, which was a big splash in the international news media.

It's also possible that the UK cut a deal for the detainees' release, although I highly doubt that any such negotiation would have taken place this quickly. My guess is that the mullahs got cold feet after gauging the Western response. I think we can expect to see a heightened security response along the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and it's possible that the Iranians may try the same thing again later.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 23, 2004 6:41 AM

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