Tim Montgomerie, Editor of BritainAndAmerica.com writes:
The fifteen British sailors are on their way home for Easter and thank God for that. Now that they are safe, however, it is important to start asking some searching questions about all of those propaganda interviews that they took part in. The things they said, the waving and the smiling have been great gifts to the Iranian regime. They have given some credibility to Tehran’s claim that they did illegally enter Iranian waters and their remarks have contributed to the idea that this is a regime that is, at least, reasonable. Faye Turney’s words were particularly generous to her captors: "Apologies for our actions, but many thanks for having it in your hearts to let us go free." The Wall Street Journal reminds us of the true nature of Ahmadinejad’s regime:
"While the release of the Brits is cause for celebration, we hope the world won’t forget those who aren’t getting out–the myriad political prisoners, often democrats, in Iran’s dungeons. These are the truly courageous people the West has paid too little attention to as it focuses on diplomacy and business with Iran. Given his regime’s persecution of Iran’s tiny Christian community, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s invocation of Easter as a reason for freeing the sailors is particularly offensive."
Now – let me be clear – I’m not criticising our individual sailors. It may be that their orders are to co-operate with their captors in these situations. As today’s Daily Mail suggests, "modern military training now advises personnel to cooperate with captors at their discretion." "But," asks The Mail, "has that shift in doctrine gone too far?" My answer to that question is a definite ‘yes’.
In terms of next steps I can only commend the advice of National Review:
"[Britain] should begin by making sure the captives repudiate their confessions and denounce their captors once they’re back home. We don’t need to hear how nice the food is in Tehran. Next, Britain should have the 15 demand compensation for their illegal capture and treatment. It must send an absolutely unambiguous message that its sailors and marines were never in Iranian waters, and that it has made no concessions concerning the location of the border. (Sending some patrol missions back to the area, backed up by overwhelming firepower, would punctuate the point nicely.) The U.S., for its part, must hold the five Iranian agents it captured in Iraq for a long time, lest it appear that there has been a swap."
Other newspaper reactions to the whole affair are listed below.
The Sun Says: "It is a huge relief to see an end to the Iran captives crisis, which worsened the longer it went on. But the sight of the illegally-detained British forces thanking Iranian tyrants for their freedom will sicken the nation. Smirking President Ahmadinejad milked the humiliating moment for all it was worth. The ratings were paraded in cheap new suits and had to grovel in public for his blessing. Their 13-day ordeal should soon be over. But nobody emerges from this crisis with credit. The Royal Navy failed to protect the patrol — or spot boatloads of heavily-armed Republican Guards racing to ambush it. Britain’s official response was at times uncertain and, in the case of Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, downright embarrassing. The UN emerged in its true colours — divided and ineffectual. The real villains are the Iranians who grabbed a non-aggressive British crew acting legally under a UN mandate."
Daily Mail: "There was something almost surreal about the whole affair: the smiling and uniformed captives (in stark and no doubt deliberate contrast to the orangesuited Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay); the civilian suits they were given for their release; the exchange of courtesies with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the captives thanking him for his ‘kindness’; his condescending speech, offering his ‘pardon’ as a ‘gift’ to the British people to celebrate Easter and Mohammed’s birthday; his patronising remark, referring to Faye Turney: ‘Why don’t they respect the values of families in the West?’; and finally, Mr Blair’s assurance that we bear the Iranian people ‘no ill will’. It is too soon to know exactly what Britain threatened or what pressures the captives had to endure. But doesn’t it look at first sight as if Iran, perhaps the greatest current threat to world peace, has simply been playing with Britain, testing our resolve – and finding, in the midst of an unpopular war, that it barely exists?"
The Telegraph: "The Iranian president has rightly been demonised in the West for his call for Israel’s destruction and his pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme in defiance of the UN. Yet yesterday he was able to adopt the moral high ground, admonishing the Government while treating graciously those who had been acting on its behalf at the head of the Gulf. This bodes badly for the West’s relations with Teheran over a number of acutely difficult problems during the coming months: its defiance of UN sanctions imposed because of a refusal to halt uranium enrichment; its heightened meddling in Iraq; and its continued support for terrorist movements – Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and elements of Fatah – vowed to Israel’s destruction. During the recent crisis, Iran has yielded not a jot on any of these matters. Rather, the approval it has enjoyed on the Islamic "street" for humiliating an old enemy is likely to make it even more intransigent."
Investor’s Business Daily: "Within days of the sailors’ being nabbed inside Iraqi territorial waters, British media and diplomats were already pointing angry fingers of blame. No, not at Iran and Ahmadinejad, but at President Bush, who had the effrontery to remind Iran the British sailors were on a U.N.-sanctioned mission and demanded their release. By Wednesday it was as if nothing had happened, with Ahmadinejad joking on TV with the prisoners, playing the genial host as his captives apologized for inconveniencing Iran. Ahmadinejad even chastised Blair for sending Faye Turney — a mother — into harm’s way. "How can you justify seeing a mother away from her home, her children? Why don’t they respect family values in the West?" Not only does Iran’s kooky leader come away looking magnanimous, but actually concerned to boot. All this from a man who committed an act of war, funds and trains terrorist murderers and still pursues nuclear weapons so he can obliterate his neighbor, Israel."
National Review (John O’Sullivan, Editor at Large): "The Brits are developing a quasi-pacifist European sensibility on military affairs, they are “entering Europe” psychologically as well as economically. That puts them at a disadvantage in conflict with a revolutionary Iran: "Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight. But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right". If that is so, a number of oddities about the crisis become much clearer: the Royal Navy’s feeble rules of engagement which in effect say “Hey, you can’t do that — someone might get killed”; the willingness of the sailors to repeat Iranian propaganda — they apparently received no training in resisting pressure in captivity; the assumption that the sole aim of diplomacy must be to free the captives at almost any cost; the widespread belief that Britain has no options against a poorer and less powerful nation like Iran; and the overriding sense of fatalism that colors both government policy and press comment in the British capital. If these beliefs were true, that would be some excuse — but they are false."