Thursday, April 05, 2007

Why is Talking a Concession?

The British sailors are back home. Praise God for their safe return!

Clearly the leaders of the Islamic Republic decided they had gained as much as they could from the crisis -- and that further confrontation could prove counterproductive. Kamran Bokari, a senior analyst at the private intelligence consulting firm Stratfor said, "The bottom line that they've underscored is: If you mess with us, we can mess back. The Iranians come out looking really good, because they've demonstrated they can checkmate."

Iran's leaders insisted the release of the Britons on the 13th day of their detention was a matter of pure goodwill, saying they had made no compromise. The official news agency IRNA quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying the release was a gift to the British in celebration of the birthday March 30 of the prophet Muhammad and in honor of the upcoming celebration of Easter.

In today's New York Times an Op Ed entitled "What We Can Learn From Britain About Iran" written by Vali Nasr, professor at the Naval Post graduate School, and Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations addresses clearly and forthrightly the lessions we can learn from Britain. They write:

"Had the British followed the American example, once the sailors and marines were seized, they could have escalated the conflict by pursuing the matter more forcefully at the United Nations or sending additional naval vessels to the area. Instead, the British tempered their rhetoric and insisted that diplomacy was the only means of resolving the conflict. The Iranians received this as pragmatism on London's part and responded in kind."

The background to this most recent confrontation with Iran was outlined in an article in the UK Independent on April 3 entitled, "The botched US raid that led to the hostage crisis." It connected the dots between the US arrest of five junior Iranian diplomats in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on January 11 and the crisis with the British sailors.

Writes Patrick Coburn, "The raid in Arbil was a far more serious and aggressive act. It was not carried out by proxies but by US forces directly. The abortive Arbil raid provoked a dangerous escalation in the confrontation between the US and Iran which ultimately led to the capture of the 15 British sailors and Marines - apparently considered a more vulnerable coalition target than their American comrades."

Through all of this, the Bush Administration's policy on diplomacy with Iran is that talking is a concession. The issue surfaces on another front, House Speaker Nancy Peloci's trip to Syria.

Vice President Dick Cheney said in a radio interview that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been isolated and cut off internationally because of his government's behavior. "The unfortunate thing about the speaker's visit is it sort of breaks down that barrier," Cheney said on ABC News Radio. "In other words, his bad behavior is being rewarded, in a sense."

When did talking become a concession and diplomacy a reward? The British example clearly shows how misguided that policy is.


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