Well, the great Iranian Hostage Crisis of 2007 (at least, the first one) is over. The Brits are home, seemingly no worse for wear, and many and sundry people are celebrating that the matter was settled without violence.
Unlike them, though, I see this as no grounds for celebration.
The precedent has been set: Iran has kidnapped sailors, kept them prisoner, denied them their Geneva Convention rights, used them as PR props, and then let them go in a grand ceremony — and the world is trampling all over itself to pat them on the back. “Consequences? Why, those would be mean-spirited and punitive and not at all conducive to civil discourse! Besides, everyone is safe, so what’s the problem?”
The problem is this: Iran invaded Iraqi territorial waters (as is proven by their own first reports of the incident, which clearly set the events as taking place in Iraqi waters, not Iranian), siezed a boat of a British ship operating in cooperation with the Iraqi government and under UN sanction, kept the sailors as prisoners, displayed them in crass attempts at PR, threatened them with imprisonment or worse, then — once they’d wrung every last drop of use out of them — released them in a grand display of generosity. And the world’s reaction to this act of piracy?
Why, they’re being lauded and praised for their actions, while those who expressed alarm and resolve over the matter are slammed as war-mongers and bloodthirsty villains.
I think this has great potential applications outside the realm of international diplomacy. Bank robbers who hold press conferences to give back the money will be spared prosecution. Rapists will only have to cover their victims’ dry-cleaning bills, and agree to pay child support if the victim becomes pregnant. And car thieves who return the vehicle washed and with a full tank of gas will be praised for their generosity.
And now, “Iranian waters” are wherever Iran says they are, and Iranian ships now carry around them a magical field that turns their vicinity into Iranian sovereign territory. One of them could sail up to New York City (if it could reach that far), land on Liberty Island, declare the Statue of Liberty the 5th holiest place in Islam and “arrest” all the tourists for being in Iran illegally.
Iran has also established another breakthrough in international relations. It has declared that its citizens arrested in Iraq were “diplomats.’ Prior to this, diplomats had to go through a rather extensive process. They had to have been commissioned by their home nation and issued credentials. Those credentials would then be presented to the host nation, which would choose whether or not to accept them. Then, depending on which choice was made, the would-be diplomat would be sent home or granted diplomatic status and protection and allowed to stay in the host nation.
Now, though, Iran can send all the people it wants into Iraq, without going through all that rigamarole. They can supply the terrorists with weapons, equipment, training, intelligence, and other resources, and if they get caught, claim to be “diplomats” and their lairs as “consulates.” “Oh, did we forget to tell you about this beforehand? Sorry, our bad. Anyway, that’s the way things are. Let us go and leave us alone, or you’ll cause a major international incident and really risk pissing off Iran, who’s already doing all it can to destabilize your government, kill your people, and eventually want to control your nation.”
Yup, the peaceful resolution to this whole mess is certainly something to be celebrated. Concepts such as “justice deferred is justice denied” are really outmoded. And if avoiding a little violence today merely postpones — and radically escalates — the butcher’s bill tomorrow, who really cares?