Iran’s British Captives: The Briar Patch
My initial reaction to the news that a group of British sailors and marines had been seized by the Iranians—that it was a case of the actions of an overzealous ship’s captain being exploited for domestic political gain by the Iranian regime—is becoming less and less supportable. Austin Bay’s observation
Britain says it has definitive evidence its personnel were in Iraqi territory. Even if they strayed into Iranian water, the fact the sailors and marines were surrounded and outgunned suggests a planned operation.
is sounding more like the ticket. If the videos I’ve seen of the actual detention of the British sailors by the Iranians are authentic, they would seem to confirm the notion that the operation was planned. Walid Phares has claimed that the operation was planned months in advance.
Why? It seems to me that there are any number of reasons. First, a show of bravado on the part of the Iranian regime and shows of obeisance by the Brits could tend to shore up the political support for the regime both domestically and in the region. And then there’s this:
VIENNA, Austria – Oil prices rebounded above $64 a barrel Thursday, reflecting an upward blip in tensions over Iran’s detention of 15 British navy personnel, after London said it would take the issue to the U.N. Security Council.
Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, is located along the Strait of Hormuz, through which about two-fifths of the world’s oil is transported. Traders worry that oil supplies could be disrupted if unrest escalates there.
After opening lower, light, sweet crude for May delivery rose 6 cents to $64.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by afternoon in Europe. The contract settled at $64.08 a barrel Wednesday, its highest close since September.
May Brent crude on London’s ICE Futures exchange rose 36 cents to $66.14 a barrel.
Oil spiked briefly above $68 a barrel in after-hours trading late Tuesday on a rumor — denied by the U.S. military — that Iran had fired on a U.S. ship in the Persian Gulf.
“The hypersensitivity to the geopolitical situation is setting the market up for vastly increased volatility ahead,” said Fimat USA analyst John Kilduff.
Other suggestions have been that the Iranians were looking for something to trade in exchange for their five operatives taken prisoner in Iraq by U. S. forces last month or that the Iranian regime is being deliberately provocative, hoping to force a confrontation.
In my view, if the Brits don’t have solid evidence for the location of their vessel when apprehended, they should mouth the necessary formulas and bring an end to the matter. If, however, they do have solid evidence that the vessel was in Iraqi waters, what’s next?
Responding with force would be an error. It wouldn’t necessarily secure the release of the British sailors, it could produce a “rally ’round” surge in support for the Iranian regime, and it would likely cause a further increase in the price of oil—all of which would benefit the regime.
IMO the correct response would be one that increased the pressure on the Iranian regime by putting a wedge between the Iranian people and the regime. I’m open to suggestions. Go to the Security Council and ask for a ban on sales of gasoline to Iran until the sailors are released?
Cross-posted to The Glittering Eye.