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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Washington Times On Iranian/British Hostage Crisis

I would like to agree with the The Washington Times, but I am afraid I cannot:

Taking its behind-the-scenes diplomacy public, Britain has stepped up its pressure on Iran to release 15 sailors and marines taken hostage last week, and it's time for the rest of the international community to follow suit. British officials have declared unequivocally that the sailors and marines boarded a ship in Iraq's territorial waters. An overflight confirmed British reports of the location of the merchant vessel, which has been anchored in the same place (where the British personnel were taken hostage at gunpoint) since the incident last Friday. Moreover, coordinates provided by the Iranian government purporting to show that the British personnel had entered Iranian waters turned out to be, in fact, in Iraqi waters. Only later did Iranian officials offer a second, "corrected," set of coordinates. Iran's defense of its aggression is unraveling.

Prime Minster Tony Blair told Parliament: "It is now time to ratchet up international and diplomatic pressure in order to make sure that the Iranian government understands their total isolation on this issue." Indeed, the United Nations Security Council, under whose mandate the marines and sailors were operating, needs to take up the charge. Iranian officials, however, have so far failed to respond to international pressure: a promise to release Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only female hostage, was spurned even as the chorus of criticisms grew.

Should diplomatic pressure continue to fail to make headway, increasing the economic pressure on Iran may also be an effective way to force its hand. Britain will cut off official bilateral business with the rogue regime, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett announced Wednesday. While British trade with Iran is relatively small, the European Union as a whole has more substantial economic leverage. The EU is Iran's largest trading partner, receiving more than 26 percent of Iranian exports and accounting for 44 percent of Iranian imports. As Timothy Garton Ash noted yesterday in the British newspaper the Guardian, export credit guarantees -- especially from Germany, France and Italy -- have bolstered this growing trade. Sixty-five percent of German exports to Iran, a larger percentage than to any other country, are guaranteed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.

As current president of the EU, Germany should lead the way in exerting its economic influence to bring about the only acceptable solution to this situation: the immediate release of all hostages.

Economic and diplomatic pressures are nice, and may get this accomplished quickly (or as quickly as possible), but I do not think itis wise to put all their eggs into one basket. Indeed, the Brits must make it perfectly clear to Iran that more serious tactics may be used, including the possibility of military force. Readers have e-mailed me questioning what I mean by "time is running out" for Tony Blair. Let me put this as succinctly as I can. Very shortly, the Iranians are going to move these sailors to different locations. If a commando-style raid is in the works, they must work quickly. Such a raid is not a measured or reasonable approach as the Brits are not sure exactly where the hostages are. Add the Iranian air defenses to the mix, and such a raid would be as suicidal as Operation Eagle Claw was for the Carter administration.

Yes, the EU is a major trading partner with Iran, and the cut-off of goods coming into Europe from Iran would hurt them, but likely only for a short time. And while this crisis continues, the price of oil continues to go up, and Iran is pocketing millions each day in it's coffers from this. The most viable option left to Tony Blair is the scenario posited by Newt Gingrich. Remove their only refinery, and blockade imports and exports from Iran. There is sufficient force in the Royal Navy to do that on their own, but coalition partners might be persuaded to lend a hand until Her Majesty's Royal Navy arrives.

This situtation cannot be resolved via diplomacy. Not unless Britain wants to see if they can surpass the dawdling record of 444 days that Jimmy Carter set in 1979. And I seriously doubt that Tony Blair wants to do that. The EU, for all of it's faults, at least took a step beyond what the UN did, and that should be commended. But now is the time to implement further steps. Isolation is a viable option, but without the threat of force, and the will to back that threat up, Iran will win this propaganda war, and the West will be left with egg all over it's face.



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