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March 25, 2007

The Hostage Crisis: Day Four

Still Day 3 at Pajamas Media, which runs down the news.

Especially interesting is Debka's report that Iran plans a whole series of "reprisals" following the UN vote on fresh sanctions, and the Belmont Club's analysis of the situation: another Pueblo incident or a new Cuban Missile Crisis?

And the Great Big Story is that, as we expected, they planned this, and have been looking opportunistically for the chance to take some hostages for a week:

A senior Iranian military official said Saturday that the decision to capture the soldiers was made during a March 18 emergency meeting of the High Council for Security following a report by the Al-Quds contingent commander, Kassem Suleimani, to the Iranian chief of the armed forces, Maj.Gen. Hassan Firouz Abadi. In the report, according to Asharq al-Awsat, Suleimani warned Abadi that Al Quds and Revolutionary Guards’ operations had become transparent to US and British intelligence following the arrest of a senior Al Quds officer and four of his deputies in Irbil.

That's from the JPost.

Why did Iran feel so threatened? Because of 300. Not the movie, but the number of Iranian spies, saboteurs, and terrorists now being held by the west:

American forces in Iraq now hold some 300 prisoners tied to Iran’s intelligence agencies, Pajamas Media learned from both diplomatic and military sources.

This is believed, by both sources, to be a record number of prisoners tied to Iran. Virtually all were captured in the past two months.

This week’s seizure of 15 British sailors by Iran in the contested waters of the Shattab al-Arab, the ship channel that divides Iraq and Iran, may have been payback for the capture of record number of Iranian operatives inside Iraq. “It may be a bargaining chip,” one diplomatic source said.

The intelligence community is still debating whether the unlawful detainment of British sailors was ordered by Iran’s government or was presented to it as a fait accompli by relatively low-level Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.

The roughly 300 prisoners held in Iraq—the number grows frequently—are either Iranian nationals or Shiites recruited from neighboring countries that are employed one of its almost two dozen intelligence or paramilitary services.

The record haul of Iran-linked prisoners may not be a sign of Iran’s increasing involvement in Iraq. The Islamic Republic’s participation in the Iraq war, which includes funding, arming and training both Shiite and Sunni militias, has been known to be significant for some time.

More likely, the large number of Iran-linked prisoners reflects a change in tactics following the arrival of Multinational Force Iraq commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus. Previously, Iranians and other foreigners could not be picked up without a provable connection to terrorism. Now, American and allied forces are encouraged to seize militants based on a reasonable suspicion of involvement in insurgent attacks. This is consistent with Iraqi law.

I do enjoy how the "intelligence" community is forever debating absurdities among themselves in order to shill for our enemies. Anyone really buying that a group of Iranian ships just decided, on their own authority, to go hunting on the seas for western hostages, just coincidentally after Iran warned of the government's intention to do just that?

"someone" argued that my claim of the need for American response was incorrect, as it was British sailors who were seized. I don't agree. While we may not be willing to retaliate against Iran for its act of war against a third country, we are nevertheless compelled to take prophylactic action against them to prevent them from doing the same to our sailors (or any other sailors in the region). As Iran was quite willing to move beyond the three mile territorial-water limit to kidnap their new hostages, it seems we can't permit them to come anywhere near that three mile line again. Certainly we can't permit them to venture beyond it; we see now what their plan is.

I'm probably wrong that we can or will force their ships to retreat behind a US-imposed one or two mile limit. It's just too well-accepted that nations have three miles of territorial waters; Bush would take too much heat for announcing such a new "unilateral" rule. But certainly we will, as we must, begin harassing any ships beyond that limit, including firing shots across the bow until they tuck tail and move closer to Iran's waters. We can't permit them to continue conducting hostage-fishing expeditions.

They still can back down and release the hostages, and just make whatever "point" they thought they were making. They obviously beat or even tortured these sailors to get their absurd confession to espionage charges; but no one will go to war over that.

But if they continue holding them, there's going to be real trouble.

Iran really should bear in mind: America doesn't mind air wars or naval wars so much. Actually, we seem to like them.

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posted by Ace at 01:24 PM

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