Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hostage Fuse Burning

The Stage

In November of 1979, following the overthrow of the Shah, the followers of Iran's new leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, overran the U.S. embassy and took 66 hostages, most of whom were held for 444 days, until January 20, 1981.

In June of 2004 British servicemen were held for two days after apparently straying into the Iranian side of Shatt-al Arab, the river that constitutes the border between Iraq and Iran down to the mouth as it discharges into the Persian Gulf.

So, how serious is the current seizure of 15 Royal Navy crew members? Where on the retaliation meter does and should it fall?

The British sailors and marines were taken after being confronted by six small Iranian vessels in the Shatt-al Arab waterway, accused of entering Iranian waters.

England's prime minister Tony Blair lost much of his luster over Iraq and is retiring from office soon. Now his Navy, once the mightiest in the world, appears impotent on the world stage. He must have an eye on his legacy. What to do?

The Military Might

There are reports that the lone female in the fifteen troops being held will be released soon. In the meantime, Britain is freezing all talks with Iran and the U.S. Navy is staging its largest show of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion, war games on steroids.

President Bush is facing his biggest challenge ever from Congress over his conduct of the war in Iraq... he needs a convincing argument that in this dangerous region he needs unfettered war powers.

Last Thursday Iran also started exercises in the Gulf which their state television said "showed their defensive power for protecting the Persian Gulf." A show of force in the strategic waterway through which two-fifths of the world's traded oil is shipped.

But Iran is treading in dangerous waters.

The EU, Egypt and the Saudis have expressed their condemnation of Iran's actions. Washington has long been challenging Tehran's resolve to build atomic bombs, and has not ruled out the use of force if there isn't a diplomatic resolution.

A Russian news outlet reported yesterday that their intelligence sees a U.S. military buildup on the Iran border. "The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," although the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched. They also observed that the U.S. Naval presence in the Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the Iraq pre-invasion level.

This current military hostage situation impacting our closest ally and potentially much of the world's oil supply is primed to explode the festering tensions with Iran.

The stage is set, the military might is in place, the fuse is burning.....

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