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The Iranian Hostage situation (updated)
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I haven't really said anything about this because it was being covered pretty completely elsewhere. However, as much as the Bush administration gets derided for its mistakes in the foreign policy and diplomatic spheres, I can't help but believe Iran is probably worse. I mean think about it. You've managed to alienate even your erstwhile friends with your intransigence over the nuclear question and are seeing increasing sanctions as a result, your President is considered to be a bit of a kook hosting holocaust denial conferences and making veiled and not so veiled threats against Israel and the role your country plays in fomenting chaos in Iraq is becoming much more evident and you go out and grab 15 Brits and hold them hostage?

Yeow. Other than the fact that they can do it, you have to ask why? What is the purpose of ratcheting up tensions even more? Prior to that incident Iran could claim to be the victim of unwarranted international pressure. Now, as it holds 15 hostages which appear to have been taken in Iraqi waters, even that slim claim is gone. If Britain chooses to act militarily, Iran hasn't a leg to stand on and certainly will be considered by most to have brought the military action upon themselves.

As to the proof that the Brits were in Iraqi waters, the British government plans on trotting out some evidence today:
The evidence will include maps, detailed co-ordinates and photographs of the area. The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, cutting short a visit to Turkey yesterday, will also make a statement to MPs today, but the detailed briefing will be left to officials.

The plan to put the British case in the public domain will only change if overnight the Iranian government give British diplomats access to the 15 marines and sailors captured by Iranians on Friday after searching a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.
As an aside, any guess what is done with smuggled cars?

So if the evidence bears out that the Brits were in Iraqi waters, then what? Of course Iran will deny it. But what does the British government then do?
Tony Blair yesterday referred to the gradual escalation of the British response to the seizure by saying if there was no progress the dispute would enter a different phase. Ms Beckett has enlisted the help of the Turkish government to see if they can act as an intermediary. She rang the Iranian foreign ministry to demand access to the marines and their release.

The prime minister's spokesman said: "We are utterly confident we were in Iraqi waters, not just marginally inside Iraqi waters. It is best dealt with privately, but there may come a point when we have to be more explicit. It's a case of tactics and if and when we have to prove that."
As to the why of all of this? Some are speculating that this is a move by Iran to eventually swap hostages:
There has been speculation that the capture was linked to the seizure of five Iranian republican guards seized by US forces in Iraq. Mr Blair said the situations were "completely distinct" as any Iranian forces inside Iraq were breaching a UN mandate. "In the end it is a question really for the Iranian government as to whether they want to abide by international law or not," he said.
But even if true, why the Brits (and not Americans) and why now.

Some speculation about that from Ed Morrisey at Captains Quarters:
Not surprisingly, the same Islamists have decided to try it again with Britain, hoping that they will find a Carter rather than a Thatcher.
Another bit of a controversy is building over the incident as well. There are claims that the rules of engagement (ROE) were so tight for the Brits that they were essentially precluded from defending themselves. EUReferendum takes a look at that.

One of the more remarkable things is how placidly this is being received in the UK. Melanie Phillips is a bit shocked by that:
Yet in its response to these events, Britain seems to be in some kind of dreamworld. There is no sense of urgency or crisis, no outpouring of anger. There seems to be virtually no grasp of what is at stake.

Some commentators have languidly observed that in another age this would have been regarded as an act of war. What on earth are they talking about? It is an act of war. There can hardly be a more blatant act of aggression than the kidnapping of another country’s military personnel.

What clearly does belong to another age is this country’s ability to understand the proper way to respond to an act of war.
EUReferendum points to a telling exchange:
Nor indeed do we get much comfort from the father of a naval officer serving in HMS Cornwall in the Gulf. In a letter to The Telegraph he finds it "very interesting to read the comments of those who seem to think that Cornwall should have somehow intervened to prevent the capture of her sailors and Marines by the Iranians." Asks Mr P R Woad of Chichester, West Sussex, "What should she have done? Blow the Iranians out of the water?" Er…. yes. What, in the final analysis, are warships for?
Does anyone here believe the reaction in this country would be as blase'? And does anyone doubt that if we'd have had a warship in the vicinity and something like that was developing with our troops that we'd have just let it happen without attempting some sort of intervention?

Why didn't the HMS Cornwall attempt to intervene? I'd love an answer to that question.

Most likely more to say later.

UPDATE: Interesting bit of speculation on CNN's Wolf Blitzer show regarding the "why" of all of this. Said Karim Sadjapour of the Carnegie Endowment:
They want to send a message that if you want to take coercive measures, two can play at that game, as well. ... Historically, especially in contemporary Iranian history, when they've taken action like this, they want to make a point. They want to project an image that we're powerful, we have to be dealt with. But they also want to save face.
Blitzer and CNN's State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee follow that observation up with this:
BLITZER: If they want to send a message to the United States, why seize the British troops?

VERJEE: Well, that's a good question. I mean Iran experts are saying going after the British is really a way of antagonizing the West, but with a lot less repercussions. When it detained the British back in 2004, as you pointed out, Iran just got a slap on the wrist, really.

But if it detained 15 Americans, the consequences for Iran, Wolf, would just be a lot greater.
Slaps on the wrist apparently don't impress the Iranians.

UPDATE II: Iranian video of the female member of the Brit crew being held hostage has been released. CNN calls her statement "stunning":
The lone female British sailor, detained with 14 male sailors and marines by Iran last week, has written a letter to her parents "admitting" that her crew entered into Iranian waters, according to a letter released by the Iranian government.
The woman is shown wearing Muslim dress as she makes her "stunning" admission. Coercion anyone?

First of all, given her job, she'd no more be aware of precisely where they were in relation to "Iranian waters" than would most of the Royal Marines. Her admission is about as credible as those of our pilots captured during Desert Storm and paraded by Saddam on video.

This is simply propagandist nonsense and for CNN to call her statement "stunning" is, in and of itself, more stunning.
 
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Does anyone here believe the reaction in this country would be as blase’?
Um...yes.

Well, except to excoriate Bush that is, cuz it would all be his fault regardless.

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Nor indeed do we get much comfort from the father of a naval officer serving in HMS Cornwall in the Gulf. In a letter to The Telegraph he finds it "very interesting to read the comments of those who seem to think that Cornwall should have somehow intervened to prevent the capture of her sailors and Marines by the Iranians." Asks Mr P R Woad of Chichester, West Sussex, "What should she have done? Blow the Iranians out of the water?"
What is to be done with such people? You cannot reason with denseness such as this. You will never change their mind. They are inert and absolutely intent on slow death by genteel stupidity.

How do you deal with such mind-boggling idiocy? (For which I’m pretty sure Erb or Glasnost or one of their fellow travelers will show up to defend, replete with BDS codewords...)
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Does anyone here believe the reaction in this country would be as blase’? And does anyone doubt that if we’d have had a warship in the vicinity and something like that was developing with our troops that we’d have just let it happen without attempting some sort of intervention?
Half the country would think Bush did it on purpose, with half of those thinking Bush did so to detract attention from the Gonzales mess. Half of the country would be against any form of escalation. Half would be demanding that we go to the United Nations. Half would argue that, notwithstanding the Iranians confirmation, that the troops really weren’t taken hostage. Half would argue that we brought this on ourselves by refusing to close Guantanamo and ratify Kyoto.

As for us letting it happen without some sort of intervention? Ask the Marine guards in Beirut who weren’t allowed loaded weapons. Ask the Marine guards in Tehran who weren’t allowed to defend the embassy. Ask the rear-end covering Admirals and Generals who wouldn’t act to defend our own guys without getting sign-offs from the lawyers.
 
Written By: steve
URL: http://
Half the country would think Bush did it on purpose, with half of those thinking Bush did so to detract attention from the Gonzales mess. Half of the country would be against any form of escalation. Half would be demanding that we go to the United Nations. Half would argue that, notwithstanding the Iranians confirmation, that the troops really weren’t taken hostage. Half would argue that we brought this on ourselves by refusing to close Guantanamo and ratify Kyoto.
How many halves of the country do we have exactly?
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Two, more or less.
 
Written By: Firehand
URL: http://elmtreeforge.blogspot.com
chris: half my post was serious, half was tongue in cheek, half was a mix.
 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: http://thoughtsonline.blogspot.com
Anyone else gonna have fun pointing out that the fact that George Bush is president probably saved our soldiers from being kidnapped?
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
The Marines are not there to defend the embassy. That is the responsibility of the host nation.

The siezure of our embassy in Tehran was an act of war. The failure to respond, by the feckless Jimmy Carter, is the source of our current problem with Islamic terrorists.
 
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
McQ I commented on this at A Secondhand Conjecture and it seems relevent:
Sometimes I feel that there is a sense of growing isolationism in the UK. People’s dissatisfaction with Blair’s Iraq venture (as it can be percieved) has generated a feeling of discontent with involvement in other countries. In days gone by the kidnapping of 15 British sailors would generate a somewhat jingoistic fervour that I am not detecting at the moment. It is almost as if great parts of the population fail to care and those that do care would rather just have our troops home without worrying about more potential warfare.

Of course this is just one man’s sampling of a general feeling and the tides of public opinion are both strong and fast moving.
Just to clarify, I used jingoistic in its descriptive sense rather than in a particularly perjorative meaning. I would not be against a little jingoistic rhetoric at this point.
 
Written By: Kav
URL: http://livingrealworld.blogspot.com
Half bear, half man and half pig .. bear-man-pig .. I’m serial ..
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
With reports that Bush will be hitting Iran just next week, the Iranians seem to be playing a game of "Kick the Big Well-Armed Guy," just asking for it.

Most of the other explanations are equally unreal. The idea of setting up a "swap" for "five Iranian republican guards seized by US forces in Iraq" seems like the most ludicous. The US media has been doing it’s best to play down any involvement of the Iranians in Iraq, as to not build up public support for an Administration that would likely act if there was public support. Making a well-publicized swap of 5 Iranians for 15 Brits would drive home the point in the US.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Neo, you seem to assume a level of rational thought in the left that I’m not entirely sure they possess. By that I mean that even if Iran openly, ofrmally declared war upon the US and issued a statement naming every Democrat’s wife as an intended target for rape and murder they would still not think Iran is a threat.

The onion might have called this one right. Bush’s new exit stratagy: We leave Iraq through Iran.

Kicking the shins of two of the most powerful countries on the planet when they are literally next door might be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard of. If Iran wants to get froggy, they best get ready to jump.

This is yet another example as to why I would be a "poor" president.

Staff: "Mr President, a number of our soldiers have been kidnapped by [insert country here].

Me: "Then open fire..."

Staff: "With what?"

Me: "Everything. I want it a glowing pit by dinner..."
 
Written By: Scott
URL: http://
Chris: George Bush is President and that hasn’t stopped the Iranians from KILLING our soldiers in Iraq, has it?
 
Written By: steve
URL: http://
Neo, you seem to assume a level of rational thought in the left that I’m not entirely sure they possess. By that I mean that even if Iran openly, ofrmally declared war upon the US and issued a statement naming every Democrat’s wife as an intended target for rape and murder they would still not think Iran is a threat.
Well, that depends.

You see, they WOULD think Iran was a threat if a Dem. was president, and they got to make all sorts of speeches but knew that Pres. wouldn’t actually do anything besides bomb an asprin factory. Later on, if a GOP President wanted to go to war, they would overwhelmingly support it up to about 10 minutes after the 1st casualty, then they would beat the "withdraw to Okinawa" drum, claim they were misled by the evil President, and pray that the public would forget all the speeches they made when the Democrat President was in power.

Then they would offer all sorts of nonbinding resolutions and toothless legislation to end the war.

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Actually, after reading around for a bit, I now believe the entire episode was designed to suck the home ship of the boarders, the HMS Cornwall, across into Iranian waters. If the HMS Cornwall had crossed into Iranian waters, this would now be a mess of a different dimension with the Brits on the wrong side of matters.

Instead, the world is treated to an abduction on the seas by a bunch of loons.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
SNARK
The poor Brits, they’re probably reminding themselves if they get into a war we’ll show up 2-3 years later to help them fight it.
END SNARK

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Well, since the brits would still be able to show their people were in Iraqi waters, there would be little issue, besides the Cornwall beating the crap out of whatever rafts pass for the Iranian navy these days...

When I think "sea power", I don’t usually think "Iran"...

And looker, I doubt it would take that long this time... We are already right next door... I figure it would be a sort of "Hey, America... We’re gonna go pound the bean sout of Iran... Wanna come? If you drive, we’ll kick in for gas..." type of thing...
 
Written By: Scott
URL: http://
Actually I was hoping we were sitting there with the trigger back, sighting along the barrel mumbling "come on, come on, start something, you Persian SOBs".

The Iranian recklessness given the whole situation vis a vis their current entanglements is, uh, awe inspiring. They can teach the doctoral course in moonbattery.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I wonder if the British would be interested in going in on Operation Praying Mantis II: Son of Operation Praying Mantis...

That said, regarding the female sailor, surely the Royal Navy has some equivalent of our Code of Conduct? I refer specifically to Articles III and V, as their ROE seems to have neatly precluded "refusing to surrender" or fighting in any way. I apologize if my wording is not precise, but I’m quoting from memory here. All capitalized emphasis is my own:

III: "If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will attempt to escape and to help others to escape. I will accept neither PAROLE NOR SPECIAL FAVORS from the enemy." [emphasis mine]

V: "When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will MAKE NO ORAL OR WRITTEN STATEMENTS disloyal to my country and its allies or HARMFUL TO THEIR CAUSE."

If recording a televised statement for the political benefit of your captors in exchange for your release (while leaving your comrades in arms behind in enemy hands I might add)doesn’t constitute accepting parole from the enemy and making oral statements harmful to the cause of your country and its allies, I don’t know what does.
 
Written By: Lysenko
URL: http://
Rather than a response, and possible trade, for Iranians caught in Iraq. I’m more willing to bet that this aggression is related to the fact that Iran has been claiming that we have ’kidnapped’ some of their higher ups a few weeks ago with the help of Mossad. (Any one still remember the defections of two senior revolutionary guard members to the west?)

I seem to recall Iran issuing a threat that if we were going to resort to kidnapping their generals that they would respond by kidnapping American soldiers. Seems that it was easier to snag the Brits. To Iran, the ’west’ is all one and the same.

Also, isn’t this parading of video of prisoners against the Geneva convention? Not that I expect any outrage over it from the usual quarters that would condemn the US under the exact same circumstances.

I highly doubt that this is going to be resolved quickly, and favorably for the west. For reasons that I cannot fathom, the western world stands with quaking knees and urine stained pants any time this insane country issues a threat. Rather than putting down a rabid dog that continues to attack us time after time, we keep feeding it steak trying to distract it. Hoping it will stop. It. Is. Not. Going. To. Stop.
 
Written By: John
URL: http://
I’m convinced she’s been raped while captive—at least once.

And my first step of retaliation if I were leading would be to shut them down financially as much as I could control. Very shortly after, if that didn’t work, I’d be relocating some buildings with my air force.
 
Written By: Ike
URL: http://

 
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