The London Telegraph analyzes all of the options open to Britain in the current crisis over the capture of 15 Navy personnel in the Persian Gulf, and comes up with one consistent conclusion -- none of them will work, at least not without the 800-pound American gorilla on their side. Whether sanctions, blockades, or military attacks get reviewed, the Telegraph reports that the UK no longer has the juice to pull them off:
The Government has few options if it wants to pressure Iran into releasing the captured Britons.
Military action is unfeasible without American support and so is a military blockade of the Gulf. Unless the United Nations shows more rigour, sanctions are unlikely to hurt Iran in the short term.
There is a feeling that the 15 could be in for a long stay in Iran and face the nightmare prospect for Britain of a show trial.
Washington has remained largely subdued on the crisis but some commentators have made clear that the situation would have been very different if it had been 15 American sailors.
Yes, it would have been much different. We would never have allowed the Iranians to threaten our forces without an immediate military response on the spot, for one thing. Had Iran actually succeeded in taking our forces hostage, we would have given them hours to return them, followed by strategic bombing of selected military sites, especially suspected nuclear-developmentr sites, until Iran handed them back. Bushehr would have been reduced to rubble. If the mullahs still refused to release them, we would have commenced targeting their political leadership.
The Iranians know we would have done this -- which is why they didn't capture Americans. They captured British sailors because they knew the British would have done none of this. That's not because the British have any less courage, but because the British are militarily incapable of such a response, and Iran knows it.
Instead, Britain tried to go to the UN, where Russia and China both passed on condemning their client state and source of their energy. They tried cutting off all other diplomatic initiatives except this crisis, but the Iranians still haven't demonstrated that they care at all about it. The Brits could demand tougher sanctions from the EU, and they might get them -- but good luck in enforcing them. It might only be weeks before France and Germany start back-dooring the Brits like they did with Saddam Hussein.
Even America has no particular rush to provide support for the UK. The Bush administration would probably love nothing better than to start taking out Iran's suspected nuclear facilities, but they have a big problem in Congress. The Democrats want to blame a century-old genocide on a country that didn't even exist at the time, but they're willing to flirt with a government that supports terrorism now while refusing to condemn Iran's actions. With such a schizophrenic sense of foreign policy, the Bush administration has its hands tied, at least for the moment.
This gives an object lesson on why the unilateral dismantling of the military by a global power makes no sense. The American nation learned from Pearl Harbor that it takes a strong military to keep troublemakers from causing headaches. Paper tigers get burned quickly -- and the UK has had its status as a power center exposed as exactly that. If they have no willingness to defend their own patrols, no one will consider them a threat at all -- and Britain can look forward to many more such tweakings in their future.