Streetwise Professor

April 5, 2007

We’ll See

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 8:04 am

No sooner had I posted my sourly pessimistic remarks regarding the Iran-UK hostage standoff than Iran announced its intention to free the 15 British sailors and marines. Does this change my view? Too early to tell.

I see three possible explanations of the apparent Iranian volte face.

First, Ahmadinejad decided he was in the wrong, and unilaterally decided to make amends.

Yeah, me neither. Moving right along . . .

Second, Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs had a come-to-Jesus moment (as it were;-) spurred by visions of JDAMs dancing in their heads–literally. Maybe two CVNs and a few choice words (perhaps reinforced by some spec ops mischief) convinced them that this was the best way to save face–and their heads. If this were indeed the case I will gladly eat my words and put on a happier face.

Third, Blair and Ahmadinejad cut a deal which in some way expressed or implied an equivalence between the capture of the British naval personnel and the Iranian agents captured in Iraq while hatching plots to sow further misery in that prostrate nation and to kill Americans in the bargain. The Iranians are spinning it this way, but again they would. The Americans, who hold five Iranian agents deny any swap, or that the Iranian government will be allowed to visit the five. But again, they would too. The near simultaneous return of an Iranian diplomat by the Iraqi government could reflect a trade. The inestimable Wretchard at Belmont Club suggests that a deal may well have been made.

If this third alternative turns out to be the truth, my dyspeptic pessimism will only intensify. There is no equivalence–moral, legal, or otherwise–between Iranian covert operatives plotting murder in a foreign country and British sailors undertaking a UN-sanctioned operation in Iraqi waters. It is through these types of deals that thugs achieve a respectability and apparent moral parity with the law abiding. This gives them the camouflage they need to engage in yet further outrages. The British may feel they cut a good deal if they get 15 live bodies back in exchange for 1 and the promise of visitation rights to the 5 imprisoned Iranians, but the real price that the British–and the US–will have to pay will only be realized in the future. I suspect that it would be more than optimistic to hope that only 15 Americans will die directly or indirectly as a result of this deal–if it was a deal. The difference is that the names and faces of the 15 Britons are semi-celebrities known with certainty, and the 15–or 150–Americans blown to bits by Iranian supplied weapons will just be additional figures in the casualty report, and the culpability for their deaths never assigned to where it belongs. Thus the politically easy way out is to deal now, avoid the known problem today, and blame the future consequences on the unpredictable fortunes of war.

This would be more than a crime. It would be a blunder of the first order, but it is the kind of choice politicians make all the time–because others pay the price.

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