Category Archive 'British Hostages'
11 Apr 2007

That England, That Was Wont To Conquer Others…

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John O’Sullivan describes the increasingly critical response to Britain’s humiliation.

if the Brits noticed the Iranian insult, they might have to do something about it themselves (or in company with the United States). They were saved from this awful possibility by the Iranian release of their captives. For a single day there was an outburst of national rejoicing. Newspapers and television showed the military captives, clutching their “gift” bags, alongside a smiling Iranian president under headlines of relief and celebration.

Why did it remind me of Princess Diana’s funeral? It seemed that Brits, once a tough-minded nation marked by self-control, had been transformed into touchy-feely devotees of a loose and self-forgiving emotionalism.

Then the mood changed.

This change was helped along by the murder that day of four British soldiers, two of them women, by a roadside bomb in Basra. Prime Minister Tony Blair cited them as victims of the same terrorism that had held the 15 Brits hostage. On the following day the Daily Mail put their photographs on the front page under the headline “Heroes,” relegating the 15 to the inside pages and a lesser status.

Suddenly the earlier mood of rejoicing seemed cheap and self-delusional. The leading military commentator, Sir Max Hastings, wrote an influential article — “Heads Must Roll” — arguing that the episode had been a mixture of military incompetence and national humiliation.

Others took up his theme, calling for a naval Board of Enquiry. Hard questions began to be asked: Why had the helicopter protecting them flown away when Iranian military vessels were nearby? Why had the British commander not asked other vessels under his command, including U.S. ships, to intervene? Why had the 15 cooperated so readily with Iranians?

Britain’s Ministry of Defense, under siege, retaliated in an ingenious way: It exempted the 15 captives from the usual restriction on service personnel selling their stories to the media — only to have to backtrack after an outcry against it. Doubtless the defense ministry had reckoned that their tales of being subjected to psychological warfare and forced to sleep in tiny cells would play well with a British public in an emotional state. But the Dianification of Britain had not gone quite that far.

There was a firestorm of criticism. Families of the dead soldiers criticized the payments — some as high as $200,000. Not all the 15 agreed to sell their stories. One said the idea was undignified. And while this reaction was building, the Iranians released footage of the 15 captives playing table tennis and tucking into hearty dinners.

No one likes this. Commentators in the media and the blogosphere make pointed comparisons with previous British (and American) captives who resisted more resolutely. But they have difficulty in explaining exactly why the 15 should have behaved in a more manly way. After all, isn’t this how post-imperial Sensitive Man is supposed to behave?

The crisis has held up a mirror to the new post-imperial and Dianified Britain — and the Brits don’t like their own reflection.

Read the whole thing.

11 Apr 2007

Britain’s Shame

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Former RN Officer Toby Harnden observes that the behavior of some British Naval personnel recently was a bit less that England traditionally expects.

In case you missed it, let me give you the highlights of what our brave sailors had to say. Leading Seaman Faye Turney opted for The Sun and ITN (“I chose The Sun because it is the Forces’ paper. You are always on our side. I trust you.” – Oh, nothing to do with the reported check for the sum of £100,000 then?)

Little Operator Maintainer Arthur Batchelor, 20, nicknamed “Mr Bean by his dastardly captors, was bought by The Mirror for an “undisclosed sum”. Good thing the Iranians didn’t think of offering them cash – who knows what they’d have done.

Readers, if you were brought up on tales of Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill, if you believe Britain is still Great and should be feared in the world, then steel yourself.

Read the whole thing… and weep.

10 Apr 2007

Poll: Majority of Europeans Favor Attack on Iran

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James Lileks reports surprising evidence of vertebrate life in Europe.

As surveys go, its results were rather surprising: A majority of Europeans would support deterring Iran’s nuclear program by military force. It’s not quite as drastic as Quakers demanding plowshares be converted to swords, but it’s close.

We’re not looking at a large, clamorous, martial majority, though — 52 percent approved of military action. Eight percent had no opinion, possibly because they were busy packing for the state-mandated three-month vacation and didn’t want to be bothered.

Forty percent disagreed that Iran should be deterred by military means, and frankly, that seems low. The European spirit, bled white by two ghastly, self-inflicted bloodbaths, has settled into the warm, milky bath of passive decline. One gets the sense that most Europeans would disapprove of military action to fight off alien invaders. Hey, everyone has a colonial phase. Who are we to point fingers, let alone guns?

Read the whole thing.

The poll was conducted by the think tank Open Europe.

And was reported here, in Macedonia. Somehow I missed reading about this one in the Times or Post.

08 Apr 2007

May As Well Just Give Up

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Jules Crittenden wonders: why bother anymore?

I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready to pack it in.

I placed my own life on the line in this cause, and know others who have died for it.

The assault on Baghdad on April 7, 2003, was not my first combat action, but that day I went expecting to die and leave my children orphans. I did it because I thought it was worth something. Other young men and women were willing to die, and if I died with them, my wife knew what to tell our kids: “This is how you live your life. Doing the most that you can do. Moving forward. Standing up for what you believe in. Standing with others. Recognizing it can cost you your life.”

But America doesn’t want this anymore, the pollsters and the opposition pols tell us.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is unilaterally treating with the enemy, providing our enemy an opportunity to divide and conquer. She is doing so in a manner unprecedented in American history. In the past, partisanship didn’t always stop at the water’s edge, it sometimes waded in. But until now it never took such a humiliating bath as the one we’ve just witnessed.

We are facing, among our myriad enemies, an old one. And we have just, with a once-stalwart, now-wavering ally’s help, reaffirmed the validity of Iran’s terrorist policies. Taking hostages apparently will not only go unpunished, it will be rewarded. Propaganda coups, humiliation and the release of a suspected Iranian agent. Fifteen Royal Navy swabs and Royal Marines who were taken without a fight are deemed more important than tens of thousands of combat troops, British and American, fighting and dying every day. Tell me, before I turn my back on this, that Iran has not yet received its final answer in this matter.

Because I’m looking at all this and saying, maybe it is time to pack it in. Forget the phased withdrawal plan, just get out. Iraq and the Middle East be damned. Nothing new about living with genocide, when it’s happening at a convenient distance. We managed to pretend as a nation we didn’t have Southeast Asia’s blood on our hands after we bolted from there. We can do it again.

Iraq may become a base for terrorists who want to attack us. That will be George Bush’s fault, and we’ll deal with them as we should have all along. As a police problem.

Iran’s mad mullahs may come to dominate the Middle East and develop their nuclear weapons, but there’s not really much we can do about that. Not without someone getting hurt.

Maybe it’s time to pack it in on our pretensions of world leadership entirely.

Let’s relinquish the seat on the United Nations Security Council and join the European Union. Europe does so many things so much better than us, anyway. Socialized medicine, cradle-to-grave welfare, maintaining good relations with despotic regimes, avoiding responsibility and being admired for it.

Anyway, Europe will need somewhere to flee to as it crumbles, and our great oceans provide a great illusion of security. EU membership will expedite that. If it opens the third-world floodgates and requires us to honor Sharia law, well, it will take time before those things destroy us the way they are destroying Europe. Not our generation’s problem, is it?

Read the whole thing.

08 Apr 2007

Britain Humbled

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Mark Steyn suggests that the defense of Britain might well be better handled by its football fans than by its government.

Watching Tottenham Hotspur fans taking on the Spanish constabulary at a European soccer match the other night, I found myself idly speculating on what might have happened had those Iranian kidnappers made the mistake of seizing 15 hard-boiled football yobs who hadn’t got the Blair memo about not escalating the situation.

Instead, as we know, the mullahs were fortunate enough to take hostage 15 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines. Which were which was hard to say upon their release. The Queen’s Navee had been demobbed. The token gal was dressed up as an Islamic woman and the 14 men had been kitted out in Ahmadinejad leisurewear. Which is not just a ghastly fashion faux pas but a breach of the increasingly one-way Geneva Conventions. But they smiled and they waved. Wave, Britannia! Britannia, waive the rules! …

The Associated Press reported the story as follows: ”Analysis: Hope For More Iran Compromises.”

Well, if by ”compromise” you mean Tehran didn’t put them up for a show trial and behead them, you might have a point. With this encouraging development, we might persuade them to wipe only half of Israel off the map, or even nuke some sparsely occupied corner of the Yukon instead. With the momentum of this “compromise” driving events, all manner of diplomatic triumphs are possible.

Tony Blair was at pains to point out that the hostages were released ”without any deal, without any negotiation, without any side agreement of any nature.” But he’s missing (or artfully sidestepping) the point: Tehran didn’t want a deal. It wanted the humbling of the Great Satan’s principal ally. And it got it. Very easily. And it paid no price for it. And it has tested in useful ways the empty pretensions of the U.N., the EU and also NATO, whose second largest fleet is now a laughingstock in a part of the world where it helps to be taken seriously. …

Even if there is more going on than meets the eye, what meets the eye is so profoundly damaging to the credibility of great nations that no amount of lethal special ops could compensate for it. Power is only as great as the perception of power. The Iranians understand that they can’t beat America or Britain in tank battles or air strikes so they choose other battlefields on which to hit them. That’s why the behavior of the captives gives great cause for concern: There’s no point training guys to be tough fighting men of the Royal Marines when you’re in a bloody little scrap in Sierra Leone (as they were a couple of years ago) if you allow them to crumple on TV in front of the entire world.

So in 2007 the men of the Royal Navy can be kidnapped and “the strong arm of England” (in Lord Palmerston’s phrase) goes all limp-wristed and threatens to go to the U.N. and talk about drafting a Security Council resolution. Backstage, meanwhile, deals are done: An Iranian “diplomat” (a k a Mister Terror Kingpin) suddenly resurfaces in Tehran after having been reported in American detention, his release purely coincidental, we’re told. But it’s the kind of coincidence that ensures more of your men will be kidnapped and ransomed in the years ahead. And, just to remind the world who makes the rules, six more British subjects were killed in southern Iraq even at the moment of the hostages’ release. The Iranians have exposed America’s strongest ally as the soft underbelly of the Great Satan.

The most noticeable feature of the last two weeks has been the massive shrug by the British public. Some observers attributed this to the unpopularity of the Iraq war: Those nice mullahs wouldn’t be pulling this stuff if Blair hadn’t got mixed up with that crazy Texas moron. But it seems to me a more profound malaise has gripped them — the enervating fatalism of too many people in what is still a semi-serious nation with one of the world’s biggest militaries up against an insignificant basket-case …Looking at the reaction to this incident by the United States, European Union, United Nations et al., Iran will conclude that the transnational consensus will never muster the will to constrain its nuclear ambitions.

Europeans and more and more Americans believe they can live in a world with all the benefits of global prosperity and none of the messy obligations necessary to maintain it. And so they cruise around war zones like floating NGOs. Iran called their bluff, and televised it to the world. In the end, every great power is as great as its credibility, and the only consolation after these last two weeks is that Britain doesn’t have much more left to lose.

Read the whole thing.

08 Apr 2007

Iran Emboldened by Kidnapping Success

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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.

06 Apr 2007

Yes, It Was an Exchange

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The New York Sun reports:

American and Iraqi officials are working out a plan to allow Iranian diplomats access to five Iranians captured in Iraq in January by American forces as a possible prelude to their release.

The plan dovetails with Secretary of State Rice’s announcement that she would be open to direct talks with the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, this month at a scheduled meeting in Baghdad of officials from Iraq and neighboring countries. It also follows the release of 15 British sailors captured by Iran last month, an arrangement both America and Britain have insisted did not yield concessions from the West.

Despite their assurances, contradictory details are emerging. Yesterday, a spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon Johndroe, told reporters that America is negotiating a process with the Iraqi government that could lead to the release of the five Iranians, captured in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil by American forces on the morning of January 11, hours after President Bush announced a new Iraq strategy to combat the Iranian and Syrian networks in Iraq.

“Well, that’s an ongoing process,” Mr. Johndroe said. “We’re going to work that with the Iraqis to see what the next steps are, determining what course of justice should be carried out to deal with — to deal with, frankly, what we believe were activities harmful to innocent Iraqis, as well as coalition forces.”

Also, as The New York Sun reported yesterday, the White House took part in the decision this week to release the second secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, Jalal Sharafi, who was being held in an Iraqi- and American-administered facility. Mr. Sharafi arrived in Iran on Tuesday, the day before President Ahmadinejad said he would release the 15 British sailors. …

the five Iranians in American custody are particularly dangerous. The administration official described them as “paymasters” and “terrorism coaches.”

Watch for face-saving temporizing, then a transfer of the Irbil five to “Iraqi custody,” followed promptly by their release.

Is it any wonder that representatives of old-fashioned cultures in the Middle East which prize honor despise the governments of Western democracies?

06 Apr 2007

A Shameful Episode

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NY Post:

England expects that every man will do his duty,” said Admiral Lord Nelson off Cape Trafalgar in October 1805. …

We strain to imagine what the old sea dog would have made of that sorry gaggle of British sailors and Marines – waving and smiling, decked out in cheesy duds and clutching swagbags stuffed with goodies from the mullahs: books, candies, pistachio nuts and even a bud vase or two.

How sweet.

Which is probably the best that can be said of their 13 days in Iranian custody. If there has ever in history been a faster, more humiliating submission to Stockholm Syndrome, we’re unaware of it.

No doubt, being plucked out of one’s rubber raft at gunpoint and passed into an Iranian captivity of uncertain duration was a harrowing experience.

But aren’t British service personnel trained for this sort of thing?

Well, actually, that’s a secret.

“We’re not releasing the details of the training any of the services go through under those conditions,” said a Defense Ministry spokesman, “because if we do that, then it would make it easier to interrogate them.”

Easier than what, we wonder.

Read the whole thing.

04 Apr 2007

A Gift, Eh?

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Depkafile also yesterday revealed the terms of the probable deal.

A secret British military delegation arrives in Tehran, as Ahmadinejad pushes for an immediate military confrontation with the UK and US –April 3, 2007, 7:01 PM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources continue coverage of the top-level Iranian debate on how to dispose of the 15 British captives seized on March 23.

The fierce – often strident – debate between pragmatists and radicals prompted supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who leads the first camp, to order president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who speaks for the radicals, to call off his planned news conference on Tuesday, April 3. The president had intended to unveil an important advance in the national nuclear program; he certainly did not mean to augur a breakthrough in the 12-day hostage crisis.

In the ongoing debate, the president and his radical followers seek to use the British captives to goad the British, followed by the Americans, into a limited military confrontation in the Persian Gulf. Iran would then exploit its local edge to teach the West that it is not worth their while to mess with the Islamic Republic in a full-blown war or count on trouncing it easily.

DEBKAfile’s sources in Tehran report that it is hard to predict which way the dispute will go. There were moments on Monday and Tuesday when it looked as though the Khamenei line for ending the crisis, backed also by supreme national security advisers Ali Larijani, would prevail. Larijani came out Monday night with the encouraging statement that there was no need to put the captured British sailors on trial and the crisis could be solved through bilateral diplomacy. He said a delegation might come to Tehran to review the points at issue.

Tuesday, a British military delegation did indeed arrive secretly in Tehran.

Larijani’s statement was the outcome of back-channel talks between Tehran and London, partly by videoconference, in which the British promised to de-escalate their tone and calm the situation, in return for an Iranian pledge that the captives would not be tried.

London allowed the 15 sailors to admit they had trespassed into Iranian waters, while Tehran agreed to suspend further television footage. London also offered to help work for the release of the five Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Brigade officers captured by US agents in Baghdad. One of them, second secretary at the Baghdad embassy, Jalal Sharafi, was indeed set free Tuesday.

The British even offered to obtain for Iran information on the whereabouts of the missing Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari, believed to have defected to the West in February.

Our sources add that the radical faction of the Iranian leadership is still working hard to derail the positive diplomatic track and use the crisis to bring about a military escalation in the Gulf. Ahmadinejad is supported in this by the Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi and RG Navy chief, Gen. Morteza Saffar. They are stirring up public opinion to back them up in the hope of bring the supreme ruler round to their view – so far without success.

To further this campaign, the president’s followers organized Sunday’s protest at the British embassy in Tehran and had the Bassij (the RGs civilian militia) round up a student petition at Iran’s 266 universities and colleges for putting the 15 British sailors and marines on trial and executing them. This would have been a provocation that the British could not pass over without drastic action.

Spook86 also thinks that an exchange is underway.

As we predicted more than a week ago, resolution of the British hostage crisis may well hinge on the fate of those five Iranian “officials,” arrested by the U.S. military in Iraq back in January. The five were nabbed during a raid on a non-accredited Iranian diplomatic facility in Irbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Tehran insists that the officials were engaged in consular work, but military officials claim that the Iranians are linked to a military faction that provides support for terrorists in Iraq.

Today, an Iranian diplomat emphasized that release of the five would be helpful in securing freedom for 15 British military personnel, who were taken captive on 23 March. The Brits were abducted while conducting anti-smuggling operations in the Shatt al-Arab Waterway, along the Iran-Iraq border.

“We are intensively seeking the release of the five Iranians,” the Iraqi foreign ministry official said. “This will be a factor that will help in the release of the British sailors and marines.”

Tehran’s efforts to link the British hostages to its own detainees underscores the importance of that raid in Irbil, and suggests that the captured “officials” were more than mere diplomats. Since their arrrest, coalition forces have scored a number of victories against Iranian-supported terror networks, and Tehran wants to get these “consular officials” back before they can divulge more information.

And sadly, some sort of swap could be in the works. Another Iranian diplomat, captured in Baghdad two months ago, has apparently been released.

Read the whole thing.

We don’t know for sure at this point, but it certainly looks as if Blair has knuckled under to the mullahs.

04 Apr 2007

Breaking News: Iran to Release British Hostages

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Depkafile beats Reuters to the punch in the publication of its own story:

Reuters quotes Ahmadinejad as announcing forgiveness of the 15 British sailors and their freedom as a gift to Britain

April 4, 2007, 4:22 PM (GMT+02:00)

Reuters quotes Ahmadinejad as announcing forgiveness of the 15 British sailors and their freedom as a gift to Britain

This news was delivered Wednesday April 4 at the end of a two-hour speech. AP translates the announcement as the immediate release of the 15 captives at the end of the news conference. Ahmadinejad: We leave judgment in the British sailor case to world opinion and because the anniversary of the Prophet’s birth is near, we have decided to pardon them. He congratulated “the brave border guards” who arrested the British violators and awarded medals to three Iranian generals for “defending Iranian waters.” He said he was “saddened” by the UK’s violations of Iran’s territory. He accused the UN security council of not checking the facts of the case before passing a resolution.

03 Apr 2007

Blair Cabinet on Top of Hostage Crisis

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Christopher Booke reports that Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt has issued a strong condemnation of Iran’s propaganda photographs of captured British hostages.

It was deplorable that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people.

Hat tip to Chuck.

03 Apr 2007

Drudge Falls for Slanted, Recycled Propaganda Story

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That sucker Matt Drudge was embarassingly rolled this morning by British red-diaper-baby journalist Patrick Cockburn (one of several active scions of the late Stalinist Claud Cockburn. Drudge published in italics atop his news blog the screaming headline:


A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines.

Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.

In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment.

Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil – and the angry Iranian response to it – should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf.

Take the hayseeds out of your hair, Matt. That commie swine Cockburn has simply recycled a very old story, dating back to January 12th (followup 1/13, followup 1/28, still more 1/29), repackaged it with a few new quotes, and given it a major leftist spin.

Allahpundit debunks Cockburn’s bolshevik drivel here, remarking in conclusion:

British media sure are good at anti-western propaganda, aren’t they?

Myself, I have a special award for Comrade Cockburn:

Sure, the US raid on Irbil/Erbil/Arbil (however you spell it) was a significant Allied response to Iranian acts of war against coalition forces operating in Iraq, apparently apprehending some number of Iranian intelligence officers caught red-handed in Iraq engaged in organizing and supplying the insurgency.

Doubtless every act of interference on the part of Coalition forces to Iranian activities in Iraq, or of hostility toward Iran’s surrogates, could be construed as part of the pattern of increasing tension preceding the recent Iranian hostage-taking of British naval personnel. But events completed last January are not exactly today’s news.

Only limited information was ever officially released, making it impossible to know exactly who was apprehended, and even more impossible to evaluate that action’s precise goals or success. So the Cockburn story consists in its entirety, as a philosophy professor of mine used to say, of statements which are “meaningless, trivial, or simply false.”

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