Posted by lex on April 4th, 2007
So Ol’ Beady Eyes has decided to forgive the 15 British mariners their supposed sins and repatriate them in time for Easter. I scarcely know what to think.
It didn’t make any kind of rational sense for a country already squirming under the circling pressure of international opinion over a suspected nuclear weapons program to provoke an additional crisis by seizing the 15 in the first place. Having done so, it did nothing for the regime’s international reputation to parade the men and woman on screen while making truculent declarations of their guilt and muttering about show trials. Of course, we had all long ago given up on the expectation of rationality from this particular Iranian regime, so while their seizure of the British mariners was a rude shock, it was not, in the end, particularly surprising.
In fact, the only truly surprising thing to come out of this whole ordeal is the release itself, with no apparent strings attached – it sets you back a bit when a madman suddenly starts making sense.
Looks like it caught the British government rather flat-footed as well:
The announcement took Downing Street, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence completely by surprise.
British officials handling the crisis had noted a change in mood this week but no one imagined that the Iranians would climb down so quickly without demanding anything in return.
Oh, there were still medals to be pinned on gallant but be-grizzled commanders of the IRGCN, and presidential finger-wagging at Tony Blair for having the audacity to send a mother out to sea where God knows what might happen to her. But still, this smacks less of any triumph for diplomacy than an embarrassing climb down for the Iranian regime. To spin it as “benevolence” while extracting nothing in return might make it more palatable to the Iranian president, but it does rather give the lie to his supposed moral superiority in the issue – if they weren’t worth the keeping, then they weren’t worth the taking.
As the Daily Mail article linked above pointed out, over the course of the 13-day crisis nothing about the matter had been heard of from the real power behind the Iranian curtain: Supreme Leader Ayatohla Ali Khamenie.
So: Did Ahmadinejad free the hostages after they had served their purpose, or did the barking dog turn to tail-wagging at the sound of his master’s voice? I’m not sure that we’ll ever know.
The curtain comes down on one act. The play continues.