Let us stipulate that those 15 British sailors and marines taken hostage by Iran had a rough two weeks.
They were blindfolded, bound, held in isolation, subjected to long interrogations, threatened with lengthy prison terms if they didn’t confess to violating Iranian sovereignty, paraded before cameras in violation of international law and at least some of them led to believe they would be executed.
In the end, several appeared on camera to confess that they indeed had unlawfully entered Iranian waters and attest that they had been well treated. The whole group then appeared in a humiliating photo op with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad, who condescendingly said he was releasing them as a
“gift” to the British people.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed it as a victory for “firm but calm” diplomacy. It was hardly a victory for Britain’s armed services. Whatever happened to the famed British stiff upper lip, the fabled reserve and steeliness under pressure? The impression of a New Age military was reinforced when the defense ministry allowed the returnees to sell their stories to the tabloids and TV.
“Undignified” was one word applied to that decision by British critics. The families of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan had rather harsher words.
There were no winners in this. True, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard may have scored something of a public-relations coup, but it’s hard to see how strengthening Iran’s most repressive, anti-West faction is in anybody’s long-term interest, least of all the Iranian people’s.
Iran is said to want to shed its pariah status and be accorded the respect due a major nation. Its government’s disdain for international law and conventions and its lowgrade sadism in the treatment of the hostages show that the label of pariah state has been honestly earned.