The Telegraph reports:
Hardliners in the Iranian regime have warned that the seizure of British naval personnel demonstrates that they can make trouble for the West whenever they want to and do so with impunity.
The bullish reaction from Teheran will reinforce the fears of western diplomats and military officials that more kidnap attempts may be planned.
The British handling of the crisis has been regarded with some concern in Washington, and a Pentagon defence official told The Sunday Telegraph: “The fear now is that this could be the first of many. If the Brits don’t change their rules of engagement, the Iranians could take more hostages almost at will.
“Iran has come out of this looking reasonable. If I were the Iranians, I would keep playing the same game. They have very successfully muddied the waters and bought themselves some more time. And in parts of the Middle East they will be seen as the good guys. They could do it time and again if they wanted to.”
Americans also expressed dismay that the British had suspended boarding operations in the Gulf while its tactics are reassessed.
“Iran has got what it wants. They have secured free passage for smuggling weapons into Iraq without a fight,” one US defence department official said.
It is also clear that the Iranian government believes that the outcome has strengthened its position over such contentious issues as its nuclear programme. Hardliners within the regime have been lining up to crow about Britain’s humiliation, and indicated that the operation was planned.
Iran’s ability to humiliate the West, recover captured agents provocateur, and break Western blockades at will, simply by repeating its well-known tactic of hostage-taking is good news for the hard-liners in Iran. But not everything is black, those British naval personnel hostages will all be permitted to sell their stories to the media and make a bundle.