Thursday, April 5, 2007


I have previously commented on the Iranian capture of the 15 British sailors. So who were the winners and losers in their arrest and release? The losers included:

  • Tony Blair. He could have freed his sailors on the first day by just apologizing to the Iranians. Who knows the exact position of the British sailors? In Iraqi waters, in Iranian waters? The line separating the two has always been contested and far from a black line easily identified on maps. Here is the views of one of the authorities whom Gary Leupp in Counterpunch quotes:

"There is no agreed boundary in the Northern Gulf, either between Iran and Iraq or between Iraq and Kuwait. The Iran-Iraq border has been agreed inside the Shatt al-Arab waterway, because there it is also the land border. But that agreement does not extend beyond the low tide line of the coast. "Even that very limited agreement is arguably no longer in force. Since it was reached in 1975, a war has been fought over it, and ten-year reviews--- necessary because waters and sandbanks in this region move about dramatically---have never been carried out."

Since the sailors' exact position was never known for sure, why wouldn't Blair simply apologize, and say something like, " I am sorry if our sailors advanced into Iranian waters. We don't like any country to enter our territorial waters, so we can understand Iranian impatience and its subsequent action." So why wouldn't Blair apologize? Are the Iranians too "evil" for Blair to apologize to them? Is it because Blair shares Bush's hatred for the Iranians? Blair thus emerges from this debacle as parlously intransigent, much like a George Bush.

More losers:

  • the British military. After seeing the 15 sailors dressed in new civilian suits upon their release, I ask myself why U.K. or any other nation should recruit an army and navy and put lethal weapons in the hands of these young people. The military insists on solving international disputes with bullets and bombs. This is what leads to world wars.
  • George Bush and Dick Cheney. Because Mr. Ahmadinejad released the 15 sailors, and because diplomatic measures saved the day, Bush and Cheney have lost their chance to pursue their inchoate bellicose plans for military actions against Iran.

The winners are:

  • Ali Larijani, the Iranian chief of diplomacy, who persuaded the Iranians to release the sailors.
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, because he comes across as looking reasonable and generous in his treatment of the 15 sailors. He even spoke to each of the 15 upon their release. If this was Bush, the captives would all be in orange jump suits with bags over their heads. At least Ahmadinejad got them all new suits to wear on the trip home.
  • Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, who avoided harsh and intemperate language, and who worked with Mr. Larijani to solve the dispute diplomatically.

1 comment:

  1. Roberto:

    At the risk of taking too broad a view, I will say that this incident reeked of hypocrisy and sanctimonious pride.

    Especially striking was the immediate characterization of the British sailors as "hostages" – a term that conjures up dire images of extreme deprivation, torture and isolation. Not unlike the treatment meted out to American "detainees" during extraordinary renditions to secret prisons.

    But then, semantics can be a deceptive game, and our politicians know this all too well.

    Don't get me wrong. I deplore the use of what some have called "hostage-taking as a tool of statecraft." And Iran's actions deserve the strongest condemnation; however, we must not forget our own part in perpetuating this injustice.

    What is the Patriot Act if not a stark reminder of our institutionalized double standards?

    In the end, when history is written, I believe we might accurately describe the recent "hostage crisis" as a shameless bit of political theater – a spectacle that stretched all bounds of credibility.

    I could write more; but enough said.