Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wanted: Three Regime Changes

From this weeks Tribune in London, my column on the prisoners

Old Rabbie Burns, who had more lines than the average Trotskyist guru, had the best one for the Iran prisoners crisis:

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us

An foolish notion.”

I hope Tony Blair drew some such appropriate lessons from the extremely tepid response of the UN Security Council to the peremptory British demand for a condemnation of the Iranian arrest of the British sailors, which also implied general acceptance of British evidence on the location of both the boat and the boundary.

Far from accepting the Palmerstonian terms proposed by London, the best Blair could get from the other members was an anodyne press statement expressing a pious hope for a speedy resolution of the problem. The other members of the Council did not have to be in the Revolutionary Guard fan club to see that some balance was called for. The Iranians have indeed breached the Geneva Conventions by showing a woman prisoner smoking and wearing a headscarf.

Admittedly, no one spliced the mainbrace for them, but as so many people immediately thought, that was so much better than an orange boiler suit, gag and blindfold, with fetching shackles for accessories. And better still than being naked and sexually humiliated, or draped with electric wires, beset with savage dogs.

And while we know where the British prisoners are – they have not been chained to the deck of a charter plane and flown to some place where totalitarian torturers can demonstrate by how much the science has advanced since the Inquisition closed shop.

There is indeed a threat of show trial, which no one takes seriously. But their fate will be resolved, and almost certainly satisfactorily, well within the five years that it has taken our special relations in Washington to bring the Guantanamo prisoners to trial. While we fret about the fifteen, let us remember that the rest of the world sees how superior Blair’s friend Bush is to Stalin.

This was not a good week for an American ally to discover an attachment to prisoners’ rights. Uncle Joe had show trials, and then sent the survivors to the Gulag. The Pentagon sends people to the Gitmo Gulag – and then years later has a “No-Show” trial, in which hand-picked judges refuse to let the defendants see the evidence against them, sack their lawyers, and insist on an admission of guilt or being rendered back into the system. And that was for David Hicks, a privileged white citizen of Australia, whose Prime Minister, next in line up the White House rectum after Blair, is under heavy public pressure about the case.

This in no way mitigates the illegality – and indeed the stupidity - of the Revolutionary Guards and their backers in Teheran, who would have been better disarming their prisoners and handing them back with souvenir packages of pistachio nuts and signed portraits of Ahmadinejad to remind them of their stay.

But let us consider the Iranian point of view. For months, there has been drumbeat of war from Washington and Israel. There are three US and French carrier groups just off shore. With close assistance from Britain, which also owns Diego Garcia, the likeliest main base for operations, the US has been ratcheting up an Iraqi-style WMD resolution against Iran, while building up its forces in Iraq close to the border.

Ironically, the resolutions’ title in the Council records is “Non-Proliferation.” Think about that. Three overt nuclear powers, Britain, which is about to update Trident, France, and the US, which between them have been pushing nuclear power as an answer to Climate Change bribed India, another nuclear power that is not even a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty, to refer Iran’s nuclear programme from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The most vociferous proponent of this action is Israel itself, the only nuclear power in the region, which has made overt threats of action against Iran

One could see why the Iranians did not exactly offer flowers or a floating red carpet to Royal Naval personnel operating along the disputed maritime boundary. In fact, if anything, if the Revolutionary Guards had they intellect to match their paranoia, they should have suspected that this was deliberate allied provocation.

One hopes that the Iranians have the good sense to climb down. But then one would hope that the US would have the good sense to offer the Iranians what they really want – direct talks with Washington and a Libyan style deal.

On one small point the Americans who want a regime change in Teheran may have a point. The whole tragicomical set of circumstances that led to the prisoner crisis could best be resolved by regime change – in London, Washington and Teheran.

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