Iran: Brits To Go Home

Iran president says to free British sailors [More at NY Times]

Iran’s official news agency said British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s adviser Nigel Sheinwald had spoken directly to Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, on Tuesday night, breaking high-level diplomatic ice.

Larijani is one of those characterized as a “pragmatist” in the Iranian ruling elite, which has been contesting for power with President Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard. This theme of a fault zone, noted yesterday in a Debka article was carried forward by Michael Slackman in the NY Times.

There was of course a whole lot going on behind the scenes, some of it calculated, some opportunistically siezed.

Daoud Kattub
, a Palestinian journalist, thinks it was a many-for-one swap of Brits for an Iranian diplomat released yesterday in Iraq. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says there was no exchange, no relation. From published statements it is not clear at all who kidnapped Jalal Sharafi, Second Secretary of Iran’s mission in Baghdad, though Iraq’s Intelligence Service, affiliated with the US CIA, is among the suspects. The other five Iranians picked up by US forces in Iraq several weeks ago appear still to be in custody though it wouldn’t be surprising to see them released in a matter of days.

It will be interesting to see what the Brits say when they return home, and/or what the Government has them say. If the push-pull being reported in Iran is true we ought to see more manifestations of it in the aftermath of this mini crisis: which side will be thought to have gained, which lost, in stature and leadership. Not least it will be interesting to see how the rules of engagement in the Persian Gulf, and particularly in the contested waters of the Straits of Hormuz get tightened or slackened, how far or how close Western naval vessels come to the area. More directly than in diplomatic circles the navies can take on alpha dog behavior when uncertainty rules – showing their fearlessness, stating their positions, not yielding to the “other.” There are scary games of “chicken” possible, ships maneuvering to get the nautical right-of-way and forcing the other to back down. With three carrier task forces in the area there is plenty of opportunity for manly display….

Meanwhile we can be glad the media contest between Iran and the UK did not escalate into more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *