I can’t be the only one who thought ‘Sarajevo’ when I first heard of the capture of British sailors by Iran. It had ‘casus belli’ written all over it. But that’s not how things have turned out … so far.
It’s hard to work out the truth about the capture and subsequent release of the sailors. It’s widely assumed in the west that they were manipulated into making their televised apologies while in captivity. Now the Iranians say their retrospective accounts of what happened in Iran have been dictated to them by their military superiors.
It’s no surprise to learn that the US offered to take military action on behalf of Britain in response to the capture – if it had been US sailors, there’d probably be an all-out war now.
That the British wanted the Americans to stay out of it and asked for GWB not to inflame things is notable. No doubt Blair realises that there is no heart in Britain for a war with Iran – as there is no heart for the war in Iraq.
Why then, within a day of the sailors’ release, does Blair make a provocative statement about Iran? Six British soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the past week. Commenting on the death rate, Blair said:
Now it is far too early to say the particular terrorist act that killed our forces was an act committed by terrorists who were backed by any elements of the Iranian regime, so I make no allegation in respect of that particular incident.
“But the general picture, as I said before, is that there are elements, at least, of the Iranian regime that are backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq…
Maybe this is a statement of appeasement towards the Americans, like throwing a bone to a dog. Or maybe Blair is right there with the Americans, chowing down on that Iran-war bone too?
Noam Chomsky has written about Iran in the context of the sharp disconnect between foreign policy as it is pursued by the elite in power in the USA and the wishes of the majority of the population. It’s increasingly clear – if it ever weren’t clear – that what we citizens of western democracies think and want is irrelevant to what our ‘leaders’ are doing in the middle east. It’s impossible to tell what’s gone on behind the scenes in this latest incident and it’s impossible to tell what might eventuate between the US and Iran in the coming weeks.