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April 01, 2007

Iranian Hostage Crisis: Dirty Deal Done Dirt Cheap?

Allah is down on the plan for a "non-apology apology" to allow the British seamen to go free, but it's pretty much what I expected, and I'm not sure it's a bad thing:

Ministers are preparing a compromise deal to allow Iran to save face and release its 15 British military captives by promising that the Royal Navy will never knowingly enter Iranian waters without permission.

...without saying they'd done so in this instance.

Mrs Beckett revealed that Britain has replied to a letter from the Iranian Embassy in London, sent on Thursday, which called on the Government to acknowledge that the sailors had trespassed into Iranian waters and confirm that it would not happen again.

She said: "Everyone regrets that this position has arisen. What we want is a way out of it. We want it peacefully and we want it as soon as possible."

Defence officials emphasised that they were not preparing to concede that the two British boats detained nine days ago were at fault. But one said: "We are quite prepared to give the Iranians a guarantee that we would never knowingly enter their waters without their permission, now or in the future.

We are not apologising, nor are we saying that we entered their waters in the first place. But it may offer a route out of the crisis."

That's the way lunatic, irresponsible regimes are usually handled. They must be permitted some meaningless, transparent "face saving" in exchange for them doing the right thing (and also acting in their own best interest, because they are, after all, irresponsible lunatics).

I expect the Iranians to accept this, because I do think they realize they're giving Bush (and even Blair) precisely the pretext to bomb the hell out of them they need to overcome all the resistance to fresh military action that their agents in Iraq have created.

But they are lunatics, after all, so who knows:

The move, which was discussed at a meeting of Whitehall's Cobra crisis committee yesterday, came as Downing Street officials explicitly cautioned against hopes of a speedy outcome and said that families of the hostages should prepare for the "long haul".

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, have been warned that the impasse may develop into a long-term stand-off. Privately, officials are speculating that the crisis could continue for months.

The renewed search for a solution was given greater urgency when a senior Iranian official said that moves had begun to put the 15 British captives on trial.

Iran's ambassador to Moscow, Gholamreza Ansari, announced: "Legal moves to determine the guilt of the British sailors have been launched." In an interview with a Russian television channel, he said: "The legal process is going on and has to be completed and if they are found guilty they will face punishment."

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to make a formal statement on the crisis on Tuesday. Last night, he denounced Britain's failure to apologise and decision to go to the United Nations: "This is not the legal and logical way."

Allah reports something I didn't know: that there is no clear demarcation between Iraqi and Iranian waters in this region, so perhaps the waters are muddier than I thought.

I don't think some face-saving bullshit statement is a win for Iran or a defeat for Britain. It's just how these things are usually handled. I think the whole incident is a net loss for Iran, no matter how it turns out, because we just moved a small step closer to bombing, which may not solve all of our problems with Iran, but it certainly will give Iran itself a host of new problems that need rapid solving.

Also read down for Allah's mention of a Revolutionary Guards commander worryng the situation has gotten "out of control" and urging the seamen be freed immediately.

But we see this all the time from Iran. The government always seems to be able to trot out "voices of reason" at difficult moments to give the West empty hope the regime will ever begin behaving peacably.

Allah Emailed To Ask... that if Iran really is looking to escape from this via a face-saving evasion, why are they seemingly inventing new causi belli?

Now, today, Iranian TV is claiming another violation of its territory — this time by the U.S., when two of our jets supposedly entered Iranian airspace briefly while flying over Iraq. The military denies it. I can’t believe they’d use that as a pretext to seize any of our guys, but it does help ratchet up nationalist sentiment and feed the fantasy that they’re the aggrieved party in all this. Which may be useful right now: the IDF’s head of intel told the Israeli cabinet a few hours ago that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah are preparing — defensively, he stressed — for an expected U.S. attack, so this could be part of those preparations. Either that or they’re planning to launch an attack of their own somewhere and want to be sure the public reads it as retaliation instead of aggression, particularly given the consequences that will follow.

He links Captain Ed, who speculates about the reasons maniacs have been permitted to surround the British Embassy in Teheran and demand execution for the hostages. Because they're going to let "indpendent, uncontrollable, not-associated-with-the-government-at-all radical students" storm into the embassy and take even more hostages. Just like in 1979.

The British say that the police presence has kept the compound secure, but that supposedly was the case in November 1979, too. As then, Iranian clerics fuel the violent protest and have attracted Iranian youths to demonstrate. This fellow [in a photograph in Captain Ed's post] with the rock is an Iranian imam.

Given the rhetoric from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it doesn't appear as if the mullahcracy wants to de-escalate the crisis on the ground. It will not take long before the police allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the anger of the mob -- and then the Iranians will find themselves in possession of yet another Western embassy. They have seen no reason not to allow its "students" to capture the British compound, certainly not by the EU's embarrassing show of moral cowardice last night. All of this "reasonable" talk has encouraged Ahmadinejad to bolster his own domestic position by turning Britain -- Iran's trading partner and interlocutor with America -- as its new Great Satan.

Perhaps I'm just too damn optimistic, but I see that a a short-term bad and long-term good. Clarification is good.

It will be their next-to-last mistake.

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posted by Ace at 07:52 PM

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