Britons Return Home
The British service personnel seized by Iran and accused of violating Iranian territorial waters almost two weeks ago have returned home:
LONDON – A British navy crew returned home Thursday from Iranian captivity to the relief of a nation, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced their surprise release and ended the two-week crisis. The 15 sailors and marines broke open champagne and changed into fresh uniforms on the flight home. After landing, they smiled and stood at attention before being whisked by helicopter to the Royal Marines base at Chivenor, southwest of London.
Wednesday’s announcement of their release in Tehran was a breakthrough in a crisis that had escalated over nearly two weeks, raising oil prices and fears of military conflict in the volatile region. The move to release the sailors suggested that Iran’s hard-line leadership decided it had shown its strength but did not want to push the standoff too far.
Iran did not get the main thing it sought — a public apology for entering Iranian waters. Britain, which said its crew was in Iraqi waters when seized, insists it never offered a quid pro quo, either, instead relying on quiet diplomacy.
We have no way of knowing what the “quiet diplomacy” accomplished or what was required and may never know. There are plenty of people in the blogosphere proclaiming this a victory for Iran. I have no idea how Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s rather theatrical gesture will play with his target audience. At least to my eyes it hasn’t played particularly well to American or, probably, British audiences but, then, we’re not the target audience. I rather suspect that Iran has traded a short-term political victory for a longer-term strategic loss.
How has the entire matter played with the Chinese? Will it enhance Iran’s image as a reliable vendor?
We’ll just have to wait and see how things unfold. Meanwhile, I’m sure the British service people are glad to be back. There’s no place like home.