Friday, April 6, 2007

The Hostage Crisis Ends . . . So Where Are We?

The hostage crisis has come to a surpassingly anti-climatic end. We were treated to the sickening spectacle of a smiling Ahmedinejad making a “gift” to the UK of the hostages “for Easter.” Does anyone believe that was Iran's true motivation? So where does this leave all the players in the Iran UK-Hostage Kabuki dance?

Iran –

1. They did themselves no favors by this act of hostage taking. They let the hostages go after twelve days for the same reason they apparently took them – i.e., no clearly discernable logical reason. Most of the world will likely look on this rouge action by Iran – one which fits right in with their historical pattern of such actions – and have to wonder if the U.S. is not right, that Iran can under no circumstances be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Update: Walid Phares has his own analysis up of the detailed logic of the mullahs. See here. As does Victor David Hanson. See here.

2. A few, such as the hard left in Britain and our own hard left appearing in the New York Times, argue that Ahmedinejad’s agreement to end this charade of Iran’s own making demonstrates that Iran is amenable to diplomacy. They reason that we should forgo the military option against Iran over the nuclear issue, withdraw our carriers from the Gulf, and, darn’it, just start acting nicer. I kid you not. See this NYT editorial and this one from the UK’s Guardian. They could have been written Ahmedinejad himself. Such a position defies belief. It ignores Iran’s rouge nature in causing this hostage crisis, their incredibly bloody history in much of the death and destruction occurring to this day in the Middle East, and Iran's history of both duplicity and failure to engage in any diplomacy over its nuclear program. The words craven, contemptible, and out of touch with any semblance of reality are just a few of the descriptive terms appropriate for that crowd.

3. This event clarifies, as well as any, Iran’s power structure when it comes to foreign policy and the acts of the IRGC. Ahmedinejad is a mouthpiece, nothing more. The person calling the shots is the Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei and his band of mad mullahs. It is quite interesting that Ahmedinejad was effectively muzzled by the mullahs throughout this whole event, until he was allowed before the camera's at the end to announce Iran's "grand gesture" of "good will."

4. Iran took this action likely in an attempt to rally support for their cause at home and abroad. They found neither. As the WP explained:

. . . Iran is also likely to pay a long-term price for the detention drama, again appearing to undertake rogue actions in violation of international law, experts and officials said. In the end, Iran recognized that the crisis was beginning to exact a cost, as it came under pressure even from allies and other Islamic countries, officials and experts said. Even Syria urged Iran to release the Britons, Syrian and U.S. sources said.

"They are so consumed with short-term issues -- how to undermine the West and how to gain leverage -- at the expense of long-term strategy. They have undermined themselves," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They're playing the immediate moves of checkers and not the long-term strategy of a chess game. In the long term, it undermines their ability to attract foreign investment and have good relations" with the outside world.

Tehran was also unable to rally significant public support for another long-term showdown like the 1979-1981 hostage ordeal involving 52 American diplomats, experts added. "There was no nationalist bounce out of this," said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "All the usual people you'd expect to be frothing at the mouth simply weren't."

5. The USS Nimitz, a third U.S. Carrier Group, is enroute to the Persian Gulf at this moment. I am waiting to see if it acts as a replacement for one of the two carriers already in place, or adds another to their number. In any event, I think Iran made a tactical error with this one. Overall, the likelihood that Iran will face a military strike on its nuclear facilities and other strikes aimed at its economic infrastructure went up palpably with this hostage taking.

The EU –

The EU established their bona fides as worse then utterly useless by refusing to help one of their own members against a regime that ultimately threatens every one of the EU members themselves. See here. Also see Krauthammer today here. The EU holds the key to shutting down Iran, stopping their nuclear program in its tracks. And we hold the key to making the EU do that. I suggest we all start a campaign to convince the Republicans to dust off the Iran Freedom Support Act and see if we can’t sanction every EU and US foreign subsidiary doing business in Iran today. It would take political courage – something that seems in short supply these days beyond Bush and Lieberman – but it is the next logical step.


1. The Brit's are more then a little upset. This is a people who learn about Nelson and Trafalgar while still suckling at the tit, and they remember with pride Britain’s travelling half way around the world to spank Argentina when they tried to seize the Falklands. The majority, judging from the news coverage, are not in a mood to play games with Iran again. They are asking all of the right questions (See Updates here). Iran will never get another free shot at British soldiers, sailors or marines again.

2. What this means for Britain’s long term deployment in Basra, Iraq is an open question. Even as they draw down, it appears that Iran is picking up the pace of its actions in Basra. I do hope this gives the Brits the kick in the ass they need to become as deadly efficient in clearing out Basra of the mullah’s infestation as I know that they can be.


The US needs to continue doing what it is doing in terms of targeting Iranians inside Iraq as well as seeking regime change inside Iran and hurting the mullahs everywhere else that they are weak. If anything, this event shows that Iran is feeling the heat -- which usually is a good sign that it would be appropriate to turn the heat up a lot more in the coming weeks.

Let's leave the final words to Amir Taheri, the Iranian author speaking in the UK's Times today:
The seizure of the British naval personnel is the latest episode in a low-intensity war that the Islamic Republic has waged against the West for almost three decades. In this war, Iran has killed hundreds of Western, especially American and French troops, in suicide attacks in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. More recently, its agents have killed at least 200 American troops and an unknown number of British soldiers in Iraq. Its influence against Nato in Afghanistan, against President Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan and against Lebanon and Israel, through Hezbollah and Hamas, are well known.

So far, the West’s response has been timid and occasional. The mullahs play a long-term game, acting as carpet-weavers, knotting one mischief at time, day in and day out. They know that their fragile regime, hated by a majority of Iranians, would not survive a full-scale clash with the West. This is why they deal their poison in small but steady doses, enough to weaken the foe but not too much to mobilise Western opinion in favour of full confrontation.

The debate on what to do about the mullahs hits a deadend because it is limited to two options: regime change or surrender. Those who blame the West for the world’s evils urge surrender, in atonement of sins supposedly committed against Iran over centuries. They hope that once the mullahs are given everything, they would start behaving reasonably. This argument ignores the fact that the Khomeinist regime’s political DNA would not allow it to act reasonably. A scorpion does not sting because it wants to misbehave but because it is programmed to do so.

When it comes to the regime-change option, the usual suspects who still cry for Saddam Hussein would be up in arms. President Ahmadinejad knows that no American or British leader can garner popular support for preemptive war against Iran.

The alternative, however, is not one of surrender or regime change. The Western democracies could give the Islamic republic a taste of its own medicine — and engage it in the kind of low-intensity warfare that Iran itself indulges in. The mischief must not be cost-free. It would be resisted though diplomatic and economic means as well as through support for the democratic and reformist forces inside Iran. Throughout history, adversaries end up by adopting aspects of each other’s strategy.

The Islamic Republic wants a Khomeinist Middle East. The “Infidel” want a democratic, pro-West Middle East. The two visions are incompatible. Eventually, one must win as the other loses. As the British celebrate the return of their hostages they would do well to decide which vision deserves support.

Read the entire article here.

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