Juan Cole on the Iranian Hostage Crisis

Our take is slightly different. We believe the Brits, at the urging of the Yanks, probably were positioned in questionable waters deliberately to provoke the Iranians. The latter were duped to respond and seize the fifteen British sailors, thus giving the coalition a perfect excuse to initiate their bombing campaign of Iran on schedule, three days from now on Friday, 6 April.

Iran’s new hostage crisis
By Juan Cole

By seizing 15 British sailors, the embattled Iranians aim to rally anti-Western sentiment and force the Brits from Iraq.

The lofty invocations of international law by the British and Iranian governments disguise the banal origins of their current dispute: used cars. The British naval personnel had boarded an Indian vessel they thought was smuggling old automobiles into Iraq. Tehran maintains that they then veered into Iranian waters.

It is not really about used cars, of course, but rather an unpopular and isolated Iranian government attempting to rally support and strengthen itself. The capture by Iranian Revolutionary Guards of 15 British sailors and marines on March 23 has set off a diplomatic crisis and mobilized the public in both Britain and Iran. The ever combative Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Saturday “that instead of apologizing to the Iranian nation, the British were acting as if Iran owed them something.” A member of the Parliament in Tehran called for the British personnel to be tried for espionage, while the Iranian Embassy in Thailand asked other nations to denounce what it called a British trespass into its sovereign territory. On Sunday, a small crowd of some 200 demonstrators threw stones and firecrackers at the British Embassy in Tehran.

Read the rest here.

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