Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Resolution in Iran-Britain Standoff at Hand?

Reports indicate that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pardoned the 15 Britons held by the Iranians. The Iranians have been claiming that the British entered Iranian waters and were apprehended inside Iranian waters. The British and Iraqis have held that the British forces were well inside Iraqi waters in the disputed Sha'at al Arab waterway. BBC has more:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says 15 British naval personnel captured in the Gulf will be freed.
He repeated allegations that the British sailors and marines "invaded" Iranian waters, but said they would be freed as a "gift" to Britain.

He made the announcement at a news conference, in which he also awarded medals to the commanders who captured the British personnel in the Gulf.

Britain says the 15 were in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate.

Mr Ahmadinejad also criticised the US-led invasion of Iraq and Israel's war in Lebanon.

He used a news conference marking the Persian New Year to condemn the countries he said were behind "misery" and "destruction" in the world.

He said there did not appear to be anyone "to stand up and defend the rights of those oppressed".

He opened the news conference with references to the Islamic holy book, the Koran, then made a wide-ranging speech about the modern history of the Middle East, while attacking the West.
Before we get all giddy with excitement over the news of this release, let's remember that the Iranians had promised to release Faye Turney, the sole female Briton being held, and she's still in their custody. Until all the Britons are released and back in Britain, I'm not going to hold my breath.

One looming question, if this story pans out, then becomes who blinked and the ramifications of this act going forward.

Ahmadinejad also uses the opportunity to rail against the US and British involvment in Iraq saying that they are responsible for the death and misery afflicting the country. I'd say go look in the mirror as there is ongoing evidence that the Iranians are doing their best to cause mayhem and chaos in Iraq to further their own ambitions in the region. Dictators love stability because it means that their power isn't challenged. The US chose to upset the apple cart by going and removing a dictator that had shown himself to be a threat to US strategic interests, US allies, and was a sponsor of international terrorism.

Iran is currently taking a page out of the Iraqi playbook, and is also operating from the playbook Iran invented in 1979 by taking hostage foreign citizens to shape international foreign policy.

Kim at Wizbang and Hot Air are monitoring the situation. Allah notes:
The fact that they let/made Ahmadinejad make the announcement smacks of a face-saving gesture. According to the Times, Ahmadinejad’s hardliners were split with the pragmatists about how far to pursue confrontation here. You may remember the Times of London claimed a few days ago that the hardliners themselves were split, with the head of the Revolutionary Guard advocating that the sailors be freed. Sounds like “Mahdi” and his crew lost the debate but Khamenei threw him a bone by letting him look powerful and magnanimous by framing the release as a presidential pardon. The fact that it’s a pardon also assumes that a crime was committed, of course, which is another face-saving gesture.

The question now, given the de facto prisoner exchange yesterday involving that Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq, is how much Britain — or we — gave up to make this happen.
Ed Morrissey also wonders what this means for the Blair government and whether there was a quid pro quo involved in this deal.

This report has Ahmadinejad criticizing Britain for deploying Turney because she has a child.
He then interrupted his speech and pinned medals on the chests of three Coast Guard officers involved in capturing the British sailors and marines in the northern Gulf on March 23.

"We are sorry that British troops remain in Iraq and their sailors are being arrested in Iran," Ahmadinejad said.

He criticized Britain for deploying Leading Seaman Faye Turney, one of the 15 detainees, in the Gulf, pointing out that she is a woman with a child.

Also Wednesday, Iran's state media reported that an Iranian envoy will be allowed to meet five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in northern Iraq since January.
That's rich. Real rich.

Iran, after all, is a country, that had absolutely no problem recruiting thousands of children to serve as cannon fodder in the Iran-Iraq war. Lacking minesweeping equipment, the Iranians used the children to trigger the explosives so that the tanks wouldn't be damaged. The Iranian government gave the children keys to wear around their necks, signifying their entry into Paradise when they were killed on the battlefield:
The first modern use of child soldiers in the region was actually during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Iranian law, based on the Koranic sharia, had forbid the recruitment of children under 16 into the armed forces. However, a few years into the fighting, the regime began to falter in its war with its neighbor, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. So it chose to ignore its own laws, and in 1984, Iranian President Ali-Akbar Rafsanjani declared that “all Iranians from 12 to 72 should volunteer for the Holy War.”24 Thousands of children were pulled from schools, indoctrinated in the glory of martyrdom, and sent to the front lines only lightly armed with one or two grenades or a gun with one magazine of ammunition. Wearing keys around their necks (to signify their pending entrance into heaven), they were sent forward in the first waves of attacks to help clear paths through minefields with their bodies and overwhelm Iraqi defenses. Iran’s spiritual leader at the time, Ayatollah Khomeini, delighted in the children’s sacrifice and extolled that they were helping Iran to achieve “a situation which we cannot describe in any way except to say that it is a divine country.”
Once again, Iran's Ahmadinejad gets to 'lecture' the West on its military practices and actions without criticism for his country's own actions.

Pajamas Media has a big roundup of the developing situation. Rick Moran wonders what price was paid to secure the release. That's the big question and it's the one with the lasting ramifications. If there was a quid pro quo, such as the release of Iranians captured inside Iraq, then Iran knows it has leverage to secure further goals via the same means.

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