Iran Declares Victory and Gets Out

Is it possible that the West’s self-flagellation about the release of the 15 British sailors kidnapped by Iran is going a wee bit too far? For instance, in his list of 7 reasons what Iran gained as a result of this incident, David Frum includes this point…

The Iranians succeeded in…establishing that Britain at least and quite probably the United States too fears the escalation of conflict with Iran more than do the leaders of the Islamic Republic
Let me propose an interpretation of events different from that of Mr. Frum and most others…
  1. Iran begins a conflict with Great Britain by kidnapping 15 British sailors.
  2. Britain and the U.S. offer possible concessions to Iran (we learn later) in return for the release of the sailors, but negotiations appear to go nowhere for a while.
  3. Then, on April 3, British Prime Minister Tony Blair says whatever offers are on the table are good for two more days. After that, he’s prepared to escalate.
  4. Now, if the Iranians have been paying attention, they must realize an important cross-cultural detail at this point – we Western infidels are hung up on specific dates, punctuality, and deadlines. When a Western leader says he’s going to do something after a certain time, he must act decisively soon after that deadline, or risk “losing face” with his own people.
  5. Iran must realize something else: Middle Eastern countries, despite some successes at proxy wars and low intensity conflict, don’t do very well in conventional military confrontations. If the situation gets to the point where Great Britain is willing to take direct military action, the Iranian military is going to end up looking impotent. And a major military loss will damage, maybe entirely destroy, the aura of inevitable international success that the Iranian government has been carefully cultivating for itself at home and abroad over the last several years.
  6. Unwilling to put its image of invincibility at risk, before Prime Minister Blair’s deadline passes, the Iranian government decides to declare victory and get out.
  7. But we Westerners, with our unfortunate habit of looking at our adversaries as ten-foot tall supermen who never make a mistake, can’t help ourselves from buying into the idea that the Iranian government has done nothing but make perfect, brilliant choices, even when they’re really backing down.
If there is any possibility that this is a valid view of events, the British government needs to undercut Iranian triumphalism by announcing that its sailors operating in the Persian Gulf will immediately be operating under tougher new rules of engagement and that any Iranian vessel coming too close to a British one will be quickly dispatched to the bottom of the sea.

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Michael Morse
17 years ago

Well said. Your words ehho the sentiments of most rational thinking people. Those who don’t put much thought into things listen to news reports and their interpertation of the events unfolding in the Middle East and are furthur convinced of the frailty of democracy.

17 years ago

I personally think that this is the direction the more extreme elements of our Democratic political party wishes to take our own military; impotence in self-defense, hamstrung by rules of engagement that make people question why we have a military in the first place in order to be in a position to convince the public none is needed.

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