When it comes to holding
hostages, time is on Iran's side. The Iranians are not making much of the
situation in their Iranian language media, but their Arab language broadcasts
are a different story. The Arab language broadcasts feature all the images of
the captive sailors, and bombast about how powerful Iran is. The Iranians are
showing the Arabs, who have been depending on the West to protect their oil,
that Iran is able to humiliate Western troops, without fear of retaliation.
Iran has long dominated the region, and here they are reminding the Arabs
how and why.
The British don't have too many viable options.
British public opinion opposes any use of force, and Europe, and the UN, are
reluctant to do anything beyond telling the Iranians they are being naughty,
and ought to behave. The Iranians know that any military action risks getting
the hostages killed and, more importantly, interfering with the flow of oil
from the Persian Gulf. The Iranians know that they resolve this by collecting a
large ransom (in cash and concessions), and scare the hell out of the Arabs in
The Iranians apparently made several attempts to
kidnap U.S. troops, but failed, and decided to go after less secure British
military personnel instead. While Britain is, for historical reasons (the Brits
have been humiliating the Iranians for centuries) more disliked inside Iran
than the U.S. (which also has a larger number of Iranian migrants), humiliating
the U.K. with this hostage show does not have nearly as much impact as it would
if the U.S. were the victim. It's America that has been rounding up Iranian
intelligence and special operations officers in Iraq and elsewhere. It's the
U.S. that is constantly excoriated as the "Great Satan" by Islamic
radicals in Iran. Picking on Britain could backfire, if the British people, and
perhaps even some Europeans, begin to realize what they are facing. The Islamic
radicals in Iran are a murderous bunch, and barely held in check by more sane
elements in the religious dictatorship that rules the country. Iran has been
the regional power for thousands of years because the adult leadership tended
to prevail over the radicals. At the moment, the radicals are enraged by
defeats inside Iraq, and the lost ground (literally and politically) in
Lebanon. The Iranian radicals tend to believe their own rhetoric, which can be
a problem when you say you are winning, while you are actually losing. The
radicals want Western bombs to fall on Iran, to mobilize the nations behind
even greater violence against the West. Most Iranians don't want that, but most
Iranians are not in charge at the moment.
March 30, 2007: For the last week, U.S. naval
and air forces exercised in the Persian Gulf. Iran's armed forces are poorly
equipped, trained and led. The Iranian government doesn't trust military
professionals, and prefers the more lightly armed, but more trustworthy,
"Revolutionary Guards." The Iranians have invested heavily in
anti-ship missiles, naval mines and commando type forces, whose main job is to
interfere with oil shipments, if Iran is attacked. The Arabs, and their oil
customers, also have secret plants on how to deal with the Iranian threat.
These plans would be revealed if Iran were attacked, and only then would we see
whose plans were more effective.
March 28, 2007: The European and UN support
for Britain, and against Iran, has been weak. This confirms Iranian beliefs
that the Europeans are comfortable with humiliation, and that grabbing the
British sailors was a wise move. The British and their European allies
appear, to the Iranians, as incapable of decisive action.