Friday, March 30, 2007

Sanity Is the Real Hostage-full text

Sanity is the real hostage
In the case of the 15 British hostages, everyone is acting foolishly - and ignoring Iran's grievances.

Comment is free piece from the Guardian, as usual proving my point with rabid commentators wanting war, now!

March 29, 2007
Events in Gulf could be spinning out of control. And sanity is the missing factor in what looks like a replay of 1914.

George Orwell said, "There is hardly such a thing as a war in which it makes no difference who wins. Nearly always one side stands more or less for progress, the other side for reaction".

I would submit that the threatened confrontation with Iran is the exception to Orwell's rule. It is looking like competitive cretinism. There are people in Washington who want an excuse to whack Iran, and there are people in Iran who seem determined to provide them with excuses to do so. The Iranians may have taken 15 British hostages, but the allies have 150,000 potential hostages in Iraq waiting to be mopped up the moment Israel or the US initiates military action.

Whether or not the British sailors that the Iranians took prisoner were on the Iranian side of the murky line up the Shatt al-Arab, the Iranians have not been clever. They've been acting as if they were coached in diplomacy by John Bolton, with a total disregard for how the rest of the world sees them, as they have been since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took power. With global opinion of the Bush administration at an all time low, it really takes studied ineptitude to drop the ball as often as Ahmadinejad has.

Sadly for Iran, the US has better diplomats than Bolton. Washington, with the eager connivance of London and Paris, has been spinning a web around Tehran. This side of divine judgment, it does not really matter that the Iranian President never actually called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Iran has done little or nothing to dispel the eagerly promoted perception that he did.

And yes, the US is holding five Iranians with diplomatic status in Iraq - against the protests of the allegedly sovereign Iraqi government - but all attention is focussed on the fifteen British prisoners. Even if they had been across the boundary, the clever thing to do would have been a showy protest and repatriation, rather than threatening charges against them.

But there is more than PR involved. It is true that the IAEA's reference to the Security Council was on dubious grounds, and that Iran has probably been more observant of the Non-Proliferation Treaty than the US, the UK or France - and certainly more so than India. But it should have noticed that whether it was through sweet talking or elbow twisting Washington secured a majority on the IAEA Council, and has gone on to secure a unanimous, if diluted, resolution in the UN Security Council. That is quite an achievement for Western diplomacy when you consider the almost universal mistrust of Washington's intentions, and indeed sanity.

Iran is quite right in saying that the UN Security Council resolutions disregard previous international law, not to mention justice and fairness. They have bitter memories of the almost total silence of the body during Saddam Hussein's eight-year war against them. But it is difficult to call for application of UN resolutions against, for example, Israel, if you disregard them yourself.

It is a bit like standing in the square in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, knowing just how obtuse and pig-headed both sides could be and the consequent gory results of the assassin's shot. If there is a war, there is unlikely to be a clear cut winner on either side: all sides will lose, untold thousands will die. There will be immense damage to whatever is left of the global framework of international law and almost certainly an enhancement of Islamic resentment against the west with all its consequences. This is a War for Terror in the future.

There are solutions: Iran wants normalization of relations with the US - such as has already happened with Libya and seems to be happening with Pyongyang. Supporting the deal with North Korea does not involve us canonizing Kim Jong Il, and a deal with Iran does not involve supporting its repression of civil rights at home.

While we may wish for regime change in both Tehran and Washington as one way out of the impasse; and, at the very least, Tony Blair should not be allowed to use the hostages as an excuse to back the war party in Israel and the US. He should also be pressuring Bush to do what the Iraqi government wants and release the Iranians - and to engage the US in direct talks. As well as the 15 sailors, he has to think of the remaining British forces in Basra, hostage to American or Israeli belligerence as much as Iranian Islamic fervour.

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