Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kraziest Kountry award goes to . . . Iran!

Well, it appears that the Iranians are bucking for the "Kraziest Kountry" trophy again this year. This latest incident in the Shatt al-Arab involving the seizure of 15 UK sailors and royal marines, I think, has really put them over the top. Last year, I thought North Korea was a mortal lock but then, again, Mamoud Ahmadinejad in the end just ran away with it. Back then, though, W. & Co. weren't exactly going out of their way to say they didn't want the prize for themselves.

The administration was giving a lot of lip service to "diplomacy" while they threatened shock and awe and John Bolton was rampaging through the halls of the UN doing his level best to convince the world we were about to attack Iran at any moment. Condi and the Russian foreign minister were at each other's throats and Iran had managed -- even with Ahmadinejad rolling around the decks firing off salvos -- to have elicited a lot of sympathy from much of the world. That sympathy has pretty much evaporated at this point.

Iran's intransigence on the nuclear issue and Ahmadinejad's outbursts have seen to that, but I have to give some credit to Condi Rice, too (grudgingly). Her efforts on the diplomatic front, over the past six months or so, have started to pay off. She's been able to finally peel Russia away from its policy of giving Iran political cover, no matter what, and she has been able to get the UN to impose a number of sanctions on Tehran that are really starting to bite. [The Chinese remain, typically inscrutable.] Her surprise announcement a while back that we'd sit down and talk to Iran about Iraq was a welcome departure from business as usual (threats backed up by more threats).

Naturally, the picture isn't all rosy for sanity and eventual peace: In the mean time, W. has declared war on Iran inside Iraq and sent the gunboats into the Persian Gulf. It's not like Dick Cheney isn't still there, after all. I'm sure he and his dwindling cohort of neocons are banking on Rice's failure so they can get on their plans for regime change. With Ahmadinejad on the other side, it's probably a safe that Iran will do something stupid that'll send Condi's work up in smoke.

Like, for instance, taking a bunch of British sailors hostage? I've heard some experts theorize that this has something to do with the US capture of five Iranian "diplomats" in Iraq that a straight up swap might be what Tehran wants. This type of thing is similar to what Hamas and Hizbollah pulled last summer, kidnapping Israeli soldiers to trade for hundreds of their people in Israeli prisons. Of course, that didn't turn out very well for either of them, did it? Well, it might be more accurate to say it didn't work out so well for Palestinian or Lebanese civilians, who bore the brunt of Israel's bombs. Hassan Nasrallah became a hero and Hamas is back in business in Gaza.

In any case, terrorist groups taking hostages is one thing, a sovereign nation taking hostages is quite another. Whichever faction of the Iranian government signed off on this bone-headed maneuver, they've really put their country in a tough spot. Iran's options are narrowing by the day; it's diplomatically isolated, now more than ever, and it's surrounded on three sides by the United State's military. What do they think this is going to achieve by ramping up the tension-level? Do they really think Tony Blair is going to say the sailors were in Iranian waters and ask for forgiveness? Someone is going to have back down and it's highly unlikely to be the side with the armada brimming with weapons.


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