Iran’s Cunning Diplomacy

A month ago, 15 British sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf were captured by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Thirteen days later, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pardoned and released the captives. Iran’s reasoning behind their capture has been vague, but it appears that Iran did it for two basic reasons: to prove its might in the Middle East and globally and to antagonize the western powers. Iran’s desire is to exercise its power in the Middle East, most importantly Iraq, and that is only possible if the United States and United Nations troops are extracted from the area. The Iranians have acknowledged that the United States and Britain in particular are losing public favor and are receiving pressure to remove troops from the Middle East. With western troops out and the current situation in Iraq, Iran has the potential to increase its international influence. Iran has pushed the U.N. further, attempting not to reach the breaking point, as they know that an all-out war with the west is suicide. Knowing full well the British rules of engagement, Iran cleverly kidnapped the 15 British captives and suffered no resistance from the troops or the country. The Western nations have to be careful with militaristic and diplomatic solutions to problems abroad because the uncensored press will report and augment the negative effect of any politically incorrect action. Iran, on the other hand, bans any form of media that speaks out against its government. Free press gives the Western nations an inherent handicap. Western governments must be politically correct or suffer the consequences. Iran’s reasoning for shoving aside the U.N. sanctions is its belief that the U.N. has no right to tell it what to do. Iran’s main goal was to show the world that the west’s power is waning and its own is growing. The United States has recently been working hard to increase its popularity in the region and has received moderate success. Iran undoubtedly knows its significance in the region, and it used the hostage situation to present that fact to its neighbors. This puts the moderate nations in a tough spot. Do they support their current beliefs or do they side with Iran against Israel? Iran is beginning to force many Arab nations make a decision. Another motive that drove Iran to capture the British sailors was the desire to humiliate Tony Blair and the British government. While President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made Blair squirm under the pressure with the Middle East’s hostility toward the West and the Iraqi operations, Blair refrained from any bold attempts to retrieve the captives. This is Iran’s defiant statement to the west and a calling to all Islamic nations to rise up against Western influence. On April 5, Ahmadinejad gave medals to the Iranian commanders who detained the 15 British, and afterwards he announced that he was going to pardon the sailors, calling it “an Easter gift to the British people.” Although the British have proven that their men were captured in Iraqi waters, Iran still ended up looking like the good guy to the rest of the world. Iran stands by the illusion that the British ships were in Iranian waters and has made Iranian wrongdoing look like Iranian sacrifice. The question still remains: should the U.N. punish Iran for the unjust capture of 15 innocent people? Yes, we should, but very carefully. Military action against Iran would be futile. It would unite the Iranian people against the western world. The best approach to stabilize Iran is to begin diplomacy, which President Bush has refused to do. Coming to terms peacefully will insure a long-term solution that war or sanctions cannot provide. Iran has been underestimated for years, and we are only now becoming aware of its capabilities. The West should not consider Iran a rising adversary to be pushed aside, but a potential long-term ally if dealt with correctly.