Iran to Release British Sailors?

The Associated Press is reporting that Iran will free the British sailors it’s been holding for the last several weeks:

TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran would free the 15 detained British sailors and marines as a gift to the British people.

He pardoned the sailors and announced they would be released following a news conference at which he pinned a medal on the chest of the Iranian coast guard commander who intercepted the sailors and marines in the northern Gulf on March 23.

Ahmadinejad said Iran will never accept trespassing in its territorial waters.

“On behalf of the great Iranian people, I want to thank the Iranian coast guard who courageously defended and captured those who violated their territorial waters,” he said.

“We are sorry that British troops remain in Iraq and their sailors are being arrested in Iran,” Ahmadinejad said.

Good news if true.

Assuming it’s true, has Iran won anything? Has Britain lost anything?

FILED UNDER: General, , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Is it just me, or does it sound very much like the UK said “say you’re sorry” and Iran said “I’m sorry you suck”?

  2. Has Iran won anything or Britain lost anything?

    The sailors were seconded to the UN by a EU state that was a signatory of NATO. The UN, EU and NATO, with the exception of the US, didn’t stand very tall in confronting Iran (to be fair, neither did Britain).

    Iran has re-taught the lesson that taking hostages can paralyze the west and that doing so can be done without adverse consequences. I hesitate to judge if this means Iran has won anything, but I think Britain and the west has lost.

  3. I wonder if our friends in the UK will have to wait three years for the next opportunity to receive the good news that Iran is releasing their hostages.

  4. legion says:

    On a more serious note, I have to agree with John on this one. I kept waiting for the Brits to do something, anything, besides have Blair make huffy noises. It’s not like we could have done much (at least publically) without making the UK look even more ineffectual, unless the UK led the way…

    I certainly don’t think the US needs (or can afford) to extend our operations in Iraq into Iran right now, but surely this looks like a pretty solid victory for Iran in the eyes of the Arab world.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Actually, as Matthew Yglesias hints, it looks like there may have been some tit-for-tat involved, re: the five Iranians being held by Americans in Iraq.

  6. Bandit says:

    I’d wait until their actually released before I’d say this is concluded. Something tells me that may not come off as planned.

  7. Tlaloc says:

    Iran scored a pretty big propaganda victory by taking hostages and then not torturing them (at least it doesn’t look like they were tortured from what we’ve seen/heard) which it can now contrast with US treatment at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the scret CIA prisons in Europe.

    As Andrew Sullivan said:

    Don’t people realize that this is what this episode is partly about? Iran, that disgusting regime, is showing much of the world that it treats prisoners more humanely than the U.S. That’s the propaganda coup they are achieving. And you know who set them up to score this huge victory in the propaganda war? Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, who authorized all the abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere throughout the war. And McCarthy, who defended and enabled them. Tehran never had a better friend than George W. Bush. He has given Islamist thugs the moral highground.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/04/the_right_and_g.html

    Fighting terrorism is about psychological warfare. On that field Bush is not only unarmed but suicidal.

  8. tlaloc,

    So making propaganda videos of the hostages by Iran is okay? I guess you are part of the “Geneva convention can only be used to punish the west, but all third world countries get a pass on living up to that standard” crowd.

  9. Steph says:

    tlalco should move to Iran since he loves it and hates the US so much.

    If anyone believes they weren’t tortured they are the world’s dumbest people.

  10. Exactly what information might Iran have gotten out of these sailors and Marines from torturing them, or do Andrew and Tlaloc imagine that torture is considered for purely sadistic reasons? Especially by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld? The partisan hackery on display here by Andrew and his followers is shamefully stupid.

    On a related note, I have a few questions for all those who are flat out against torture in all circumstances. Since a great deal of information used to go after AQ was apparently learned from KSM under duress, would it be better if we hadn’t put KSM under duress and instead had less success fighting the GWOT over the last few years? I appreciate and sympathize with the commitment to principles and the concern for abuse of any power granted to the government, but I can find little sympathy in my heart for KSM and the waterboarding, sleep deprivation, extremes of heat and cold, or other methods he may have endured — especially since valuable information was gleaned from him using these techniques. In many respects, KSM was being held under a ticking time bomb scenario, although it wasn’t necessarily a matter of minutes, but perhaps days, months or years before those bombs went off. Do you believe that we would have been as successful fighting the GWOT with KSM under the aegis of the Red Cross since his capture in 2004? If the answer is no, is this a trade you are willing to make?

    Torture, like war, is horrible and should be avoided if possible, but once again, as with war, there are worse things than torture. Wanting to not have to make those decisions doesn’t excuse not making them if conditions warrant. We read a lot about having to select between only bad choices. This is one of those times.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    I have a few questions for all those who are flat out against torture in all circumstances.

    Since I’m one of those who oppose the use of torture under all circumstances—even if it is an effective method of securing usable intelligence (which is disputed), I’ll answer you. I believe that the use of torture is damaging both to the individual doing the torturing and the institutions of a country that employs it.

    I’ve post on this subject a number of times. See here and here.

  12. Mr. Schuler, I can understand and respect your absolutism concerning torture. I just happen to disagree with your absolutism in this case, for reasons too difficult to define in these margins. FWIW, I agree with Nietzsche’s aphorism about the dangers of staring into the abyss, but as noted above there are greater dangers. I am reluctant to recommend the use of torture, but I do not absolutely rule it out.

    I read the two posts you linked and the comment threads, but in neither did you respond to the questions I (and others in your comment threads) asked specifically about KSM and the value of the non-hypthetical information taken from him under duress, other than to repeat that you are opposed to torture. Would it have been better to have not tortured KSM and not received the information thusly obtained? Is it fair to ask for an accounting of the price to be paid, perhaps in lives, to maintain a level of moral purity? Admittedly, that’s a pretty harsh question, but statements involving “always” or “never” sort of beg that question.

    It is worth noting that part of the difficulty comes in what we define as torture. I certainly don’t think that permanently disfiguring someone or relying on a sadistic infliction of pain are a very good idea under any circumstances, but to use an old football analogy, distinguishing between pain and injury is very important.

    So many thoughts and threads, so little time…

  13. Tlaloc says:

    So making propaganda videos of the hostages by Iran is okay?

    I didn’t say that. Although frankly the arguments that the GC prevents the showing of videos of captives strike me as weak.

    I guess you are part of the “Geneva convention can only be used to punish the west, but all third world countries get a pass on living up to that standard” crowd.

    I guess you’re part of the elite 1st Anti-Strawman Brigade. It’s amazing the way you knock out those arguments nobody ever made. Really impressive.

  14. Tlaloc says:

    If anyone believes they weren’t tortured they are the world’s dumbest people.

    They might have been, but probably not. Why not? Because

    A) the Iranians gain so much more by not torturing them
    B) the Iranians almost certainly would not be releasing them so soon if they had tortured them

    and finally…

    C) not everyone in the world is as depraved as John Yoo.

  15. Tlaloc says:

    Since a great deal of information used to go after AQ was apparently learned from KSM under duress, would it be better if we hadn’t put KSM under duress and instead had less success fighting the GWOT over the last few years?

    LESS SUCCESSFUL? Good lord you mean we could have done worse?

    See what you left out here is that the info we got from KSM was almost all bogus and has hurt our effort, not helped it, just like every expert on torture said. Weird, that.

  16. Dave Schuler says:

    I’ve post on that subject, too, charles austin.

    Since I don’t know specifically what measures were taken with respect to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, it’s hard for me to comment on the specific case. Waterboarding? I don’t personally consider that to be torture but it appears to fall under the definition in a convention to which we are a signatory and, consequently, we should not have done so or been a party to the conduct without first abrogating the treaty.

  17. legion says:

    Indeed, Dave, and that’s always been one of the more troubling (yet under-reported) aspects of the whole torture debate – we signed a treaty saying we wouldn’t do that crap.

    Regardless of whether or not one thinks torture is effective, moral, appropriate, acceptable under certain circumstances, whatever, we signed a treaty pledging not to. The people in this administration advocating its use, without addressing the treaties we & other countries signed in good faith, are proposing nothing less than willfully breaking those treaties and violating federal & international law. Just because they want to.

    I am increasingly of the opinion that everyone in the DoJ, possibly this entire administration, should simply be put into jail. Forever.

  18. Mr. Schuler: Concur. I wasn’t addressing the legality of torture in this instance as much as the morality or efficacy. We should stand by our commitments and walk away from those we have no intention of upholding.

    Tlaloc: Yes, it could be worse. It can always be worse. Believe it or not, George Bush is not both the ultimate evil and maximally incompetent at the same time. Even Reuters ran a story this week that Al Qaeda had been severely damaged over the last couple of years, writing:

    President George W. Bush’s administration has crippled al Qaeda’s ability to carry out major attacks on U.S. soil but at a political and economic cost that could leave the country more vulnerable in years to come, experts say.

    See, like you, Reuters believes that even when we do good we do bad.

    Legion: Without getting into specifics, good faith is a term that is a challenge to accept when applied to UN treaties, but I take your point, even if the term “international law” seems to frequently only apply to the US.

  19. Michael says:

    I’m curious, charles austin, as to why you think torture is justified if it helps us fight Al Qaeda. Where do you draw the line as to what is justifiable based solely on it’s contribution to this pseudo-war?

  20. Tlaloc says:

    Yes, it could be worse.

    Well I suppose we could have nuked ourselves…