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Iran: learning the wrong lessons from history

Well, Iran must be getting ready for some open conflict if they're taking hostages from Western governments. After all, that tactic served them well in the past.

Back in 1979, when the current government of Iran was still "revolutionary" and heady after chasing out the dying Shah, they got drunk on the rush of power and decided to challenge America openly by siezing our embassy in Tehran and taking our people hostage. It worked pretty well, too -- in the end, they managed to help bring down Jimmy Carter and cast a pall on our standing in the region that lasts, in some respects, to this day.

So, with a confrontation with the West again looming large, Iran figured it'd dust off its old tactic once again and grabbed 15 British sailors and marines from the waterway between Iran and Iraq. Charging that they had "violated" Iranian waters, they were taken from their launch, hauled back to Iran, and brought to Tehran to face charges of espionage.

There is also the possibility that they were taken as a form of "tit for tat" for the arrest of numerous Iranian military figures inside Iraq, who are charged with aiding and abetting the terrorists. The Iranian government's referral to their British prisoners as "insurgents" adds weight to the theory that they might be offered in exchange for the Iranians.

The only problem with this tactic is that while Tony Blair is no Winston Churchill, he's even less of a Jimmy Carter.And while he's a "lame duck," he's no chicken.

Iran should look a bit more closely at British history. While the Empire is nowhere near the power it once was, or even was a mere 25 years ago, they don't take kindly to attempts at extortion or humiliation or outright brigandage. While Blair, as I said, is no Winston Churchill, he is far more Thatcheresque than Chamberlainian -- I believe he will fight back rather than acquiesce.

Another blogger e-mailed me a comparison between the current situation and the Falkland Islands War of 1982, but I can't seem to find the article he was referring to. Nonetheless, it's an interesting point of comparison -- a nation finding the courage to challenge Great Britain openly, hoping that anti-war sentiments, geography, and logistics will bring the Lion to heel. And we all know how well that turned out, especially once it was clear that the United States was providing "assistance" to the British.

Iran, perhaps out of desperation from the UN Security Council's vote on Friday, has decided to raise the stakes and try to forestall an attack by taking these British hostages. I fear that they have managed to throw oil on the flames, and pretty much guaranteed that should military actions be taken, the British will proudly be in the forefront. Indeed, select military strikes by the British might now be far more likely -- and more justified in the eyes of the world, who have looked away at prior Iranian provocations.

Methinks this would be a bad time to be an insurance underwriter for Iranian assets such as offshore drilling platforms, refineries, and military installations.


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Comments (39)

Maybe the Suez Crisis of 19... (Below threshold)

Maybe the Suez Crisis of 1956 is a better comparison. Because of the political situation in Hungary in 1956, the U.S. was powerless to assist Britain, France and Israel in a crisis created by Egyptian strongman Gamal Nasser. On paper, the conflict was a military victory for the British, yet a political defeat that the British military never really recovered from and only increased the clout of Nasser among the Muslim world.

Earlier this year, Britain had to begin mothballing about 50% of their navy ships because of tight military budget constraints, and probably lacks the navy for any meaningful military action against any nation without heavy support from the U.S. navy. But with overwelming opposition to the Iraq war building in the U.S., there is no support for a new larger and more major war here, either in Congress or among the American public which pretty much leaves the British stuck to resolve something alone with Iran, with U.S. support only likely in the event of a real military emergency. Israel could be called on as an ally, but would only incite the MidEast world to probably call war against Israel and Britain both, leading to a possible WWIII situation.

Iran pulled this nonsense because they just might be able to get away with it politically, and build prestige in the Muslim world by standing up to Britain, and getting the better of the situation. Only the U.S. would have a navy capable of a large scale cruise missile attacks without a ground invasion of Iran. The far smaller British navy and air force would both be very hard pressed in a conflict with Iran. Even the tiny Argentina navy was able to nearly match Britain during the 1980's Falklands War when Britain had a stronger navy than now. And Iran would almost certainly launch widescale missile attacks into Israel with chemical warheads in order to draw Israel in and create a larger Muslin vs. Western world conflict. Britain really has a bad set of options without U.S. help in such a crisis.

The U.S. is really the only world superpower military right now. But both Iraq and Afghanistan have really strained all but navy, air force and nuclear forces. But with only the air force and navy the only ethical options for war with the huge Iranian military, with far more than 1,200,000 soldiers or about ten times the American forces in Iraq, large scale weapons might have to used against many Iranian units to stop a huge mobile ground surge on to invade Israel. Israel could panic and launch nuclear attacks to stop any Iranian aggression wihout U.S. or British support or approval.

The U.S. could pretty much only launch missiles against Iran, conventional or otherwise, but cannot really spare the manpower to occupy Iran. Iran's military is roughly as powerful as that of WWII Japan at this point, so any war with them would be a significant one. Britain probably needs to work out a political solution for this situation because the military options are not attractive at this point.

This is the second time dur... (Below threshold)

This is the second time during the current war that the Iranians have seized British sailors, claiming they had invaded Iranian waters. Britian eventually negotiated for their release, so why would this time be any different?

Methinks this would be a... (Below threshold)

Methinks this would be a bad time to be an insurance underwriter for Iranian assets such as offshore drilling platforms, refineries, and military installations.

Nearly all insurance policies have "war risk" exclusions. While some companies - notably Lloyds - provide war risk coverage, anyone doing so for Iranian properties should know better.

Excellent post!

To write such coverage woul... (Below threshold)

To write such coverage would be to depend on the good sense of the Iranian government. No one would purchase such risk!

As usual Paul is blowing it... (Below threshold)

As usual Paul is blowing it out his ass. During the Falklands War, the Argentine Navy was no match for the Brits. The only major threat to the Brit navy came from the Argentine jets with Exocet missiles and those were land based aircraft. Yeah, Paul the Argentine cruiser Belgrano was such a threat as it sank after being torpeodoed by a Brit sub.
Really Paul give it up.

Iran the equal of Japan in ... (Below threshold)

Iran the equal of Japan in WWII?

Are you serious?

How many aircraft carriers does Iran have?

There is no need to occupy Iran.

Demand the soldiers' release in 48 hours.

If not, level Qom.

What if Tony asked #43 if h... (Below threshold)

What if Tony asked #43 if he could borrow a couple of stealth bombers? That would really be interesting then, wouldn't it?
If it can't be resolved through mutual talks, Britain will have no choice but to use force, just hope we don't get dragged into it.

Some idiot WaPo woman repor... (Below threshold)

Some idiot WaPo woman reporter this morning suggested that "coaxing" Iran back to the negotiating table would make everyone's position "stronger."

What utter stupidity. What utter liberal stupidity. (But I repeat myself)

Negotiating with Iran has led us to this point in history. It has led us to the point that Iran seizes hostages again. It has led to the point at which the UN threatens (key word- threaten) and sanctions and Russia threatens to cut off fuel for the reactors.

Someone said that repetition of the same behavior in hopes of a different result is the definition of insanity. (Einstein, I know)

So you can bet the farm that since negotiations have been useless that Democrats will insist they be restarted.

I believe we're being led d... (Below threshold)

I believe we're being led down a path. One we have no choice to go down, though.

Iran wants a conflict with us. Russia wants us in military conflict with Iran. China wants us in military conflict with Iran. They want it because right now, we will further galvanize anti-West/anti-US sentiment in Europe and much of the world.

And under that sentiment, Russia, China & Iran can grow their hegemony unopposed.

For example, if we decided to cut trade and ties with Russia because of their support for Iran's nuclear program in 2001 or even 2003, very few would have balked. If we tried it now, the opposition would be huge.

I'm not saying we don't take action against Iran. In fact, failing to do so also plays in to their hands. What we need to do is realize there's a bigger game going on and we need to acknowledge it publicly.

Paul,Hooey! A rem... (Below threshold)
Robert the original:


Hooey! A remarkable display of ignorance.

This may seem off topic, bu... (Below threshold)

This may seem off topic, but it is not. From a domestic political standpoint, the current Iran situation (and Iraq surge for that matter) works very favorably to Bush. Hence, virtually all of the Sunday talk shows are completely ignoring the mideast this week and focusing endlessly on the phony DOJ-US Attorney 'scandal'.

Agreed. ... (Below threshold)


Your right Ted!The... (Below threshold)

Your right Ted!

The very liberal media has shown their propensity for ignoring the elephant in the room once again!

I think the mullahs have re... (Below threshold)

I think the mullahs have realized their bluff has been called; Russia and China put the stop to this nonsense that France and Germany should have.

So what is the standing of the mad bluffer, Ahmadinejad? You be the judge.

They did it because they ca... (Below threshold)

They did it because they can't win against the west if they fight "fair" using western rules and customs. Time and again they tell us "you are not the boss of me" and we ignore them so they use events like this hostage-taking to prove it.

The larger question is why did the Captain of the Cornwall lose his sailors? Was he outgunned? outsmarted? overmatched? flatfooted? indifferent? or is this another enemy victory thanks to our ROE???

I don't understand how an allied commander can sit there on his powerful warship and be powerless to do anything but watch his people be taken away by a couple of speedboats with machine guns. I'm not suggesting the Cornwall should have started a major naval battle but I am suggesting the Cornwall had a lot of options and seems to have exercised NONE of them. I don't get it.

The farther he let them get taken away from the Cornwall the greater the confrontation becomes until we hear today they will be held in Tehran as human shields awaiting trial on trumped up espionage charges until the UK/US pays the required ransom. Make no mistake - we will pay it.

It's probably final act for... (Below threshold)

It's probably final act for Ahmadinejad. The mullahs are in a corner and the best way out is to give up the sailors and Ahmadinejad; nice package deal.

Paul Hoosen, you once again... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

Paul Hoosen, you once again demonstrate a deft ability to justify cowardice and surrender. I can only imagine when you attain your Ph D. that your ability in left-think will have become so accute that you will be declared Honorary French. If you think Britain will back down from Iran, you just do not understand the thinking of John Bull.

I cannot understand the thinking of those on the left who fail to understand that the bully, especially a weak one, cannot be accommodated. History lessons abound, even for those of us who have not been indoctrinated to the level of near Ph. D. The left has so infected our educational system to the point where it is ok to think the United States is wrong. A true study of history will indicate the policies advocated by the left do not work. For 70 years they tried in the Soviet Union. It failed Paul. I know you have some denial and rationalization, signes of addiction, as to why socialism fails but it still fails. Freedom and socialism are direct enemies.

Paul, why do you not save the radical islamists some time? Travel to a country where they abound and talk about your core beliefs. Emphasize your thoughts on womens rights, abortion, the existance of a supreme being and religion in general. Paul, what you do not understand is that they do not care whether we want war or not. They do. Their job is to spread islam by the sword or by word, but to spread it at any cost. To disagree with them is to invite death.

Paul, they cannot be allowed to keep those British military personnel. Period.

My God, reading Paul Hoosen... (Below threshold)
Wiley T. Stoner:

My God, reading Paul Hoosen's post would make one believe in the invinciblity of the Iranian military and the weakness of the U.S. and British forces. Paul, first the Brits would and could control the air. Paul, I hate to be the one to educate you in the area of military force, but if you compare the Japanese forces during WWII with those of Iran today, you are missing a few elements. No air support, no naval support. Yes they do have three obsolete Russian noisy subs. They will be sunk by the Brits nuke boats in minutes.
I quit, why argue with a fool?

Mitts off Meshad.===... (Below threshold)

Mitts off Meshad.

Yeah, Paul the Argentin... (Below threshold)

Yeah, Paul the Argentine cruiser Belgrano was such a threat as it sank after being torpeodoed by a Brit sub. Really Paul give it up.
Posted by: Michael

Are you that ignorant about history (or so "anti-Paul") that you knee jerk this lunacy?

After teh Belgrano sinking the Brits lost the HMS Sheffield after being hit by an Exocet missile killing 20 crew members she burned for six days before sinking under the Atlantic.

The Sheffield's sister ship, HMS Coventry, was also sunk, along with HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope, and MV Atlantic Conveyor.

The HMS Argonaut and HMS Brilliant were also badly damaged and were effectively removed as a threat by the Argentine offensive with anti-ship missles.

To mimic your words, Really Michael give it up.

Missiles and missile defens... (Below threshold)

Missiles and missile defense are light years improved over the last quarter of a century. Iranians in the Republican Guards hit an Israeli guided missile ship last year. At first the Israelis claimed the ship was off duty, steaming toward port, and the missile detection and deflection system was turned off.

Well, I'm an idiot, an ignoramus, and a fool, but even that one didn't get past me. Later, the Israelis let it out that their systems were not 'calibrated' for that particular missile. What do wanna bet they are calibrated now, as are ours?

Someone in Iran may regret tipping their hand so clearly. Of course, that someone may have defected in order to forestall the coincidences of regret.

crazy: (appropriate name c... (Below threshold)

crazy: (appropriate name considering the following tripe)

The larger question is why did the Captain of the Cornwall lose his sailors? Was he outgunned? outsmarted? overmatched? flatfooted? indifferent? or is this another enemy victory thanks to our ROE???

You are utterly clueless on two points.

Points one: The Brits would be operating under their rules of Engagement and not in any way constrained by those of the U.S.

But "in your world" it's Bush's, and his Commanders fault isn't it?

Point two: The HMS Cornwall wouldn't have been in a close enough position to intercede and prevent the capture. She would have been stationed outside the Shatt al-Arab waterway in the open waters of the Arabian Gulf at a distance of not less than 15kms.

Those captured while operating in a Zodiac would have been in the waterway near the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr conducting boarding operations under U.N. mandate.

"crazy" you are one of a few around here that live up to your chosen moniker.

<a href="http://ancienteast... (Below threshold)
Small correction in the fir... (Below threshold)

Small correction in the first paragraph, ilan; the Euphrates is on the west. Otherwise, keep up the good work.

Give Ahmadinejad 24 hours t... (Below threshold)
John S:

Give Ahmadinejad 24 hours to produce the sailors. When he fails to do so, launch a bombing campaign to level all Iranian ports, all oil facilities, and pipelines. The U.S. can survive $6.00 gallon gasoline a lot longer than that idiot Ahmadinejad can stay in power when we destroy his source of hard currency.

Let's face it. Bush's approval rating can't go much lower and if it costs $300 to fill up a Hummer, we'll cut our carbon use as well. Algore would be proud.

Gee Marc if you read my pos... (Below threshold)

Gee Marc if you read my post you would see that I mentioned the Exocet missiles... so Marc please give it up. The Argentine Navy was no threat as Paul said...and I said their Air Force was, so that makes you Marc a maroon.

Right. Like Iran is going ... (Below threshold)

Right. Like Iran is going to have the logistical capability to move one million ground troops across the deserts of Iraq, Syria and Jordan to attack Israel. Lord, the US or Israel wouldn't have to do a thing. They could stand back and watch the Iranians march and die in the middle of nowhere.

Michael,I too thou... (Below threshold)
Robert the original:


I too thought Marc's criticism of your comment to be off target, but to call him a "maroon" well... Buggs would not be pleased.

The effectiveness of the Exocet was surprising but not dispositive. The Argentine Navy was feeble and ineffective; most of the damage to the Brit ships was inflicted by the Argentinean air force firing the Exocet.

But the real surprise in the war was the success of the Harrier fighter against the superior land-based Argentine mirage fighters (and other craft) and their highly trained pilots.

The Sidewinder allowed the Brits a high kill rate against superior opposition.

I suggest you look up the m... (Below threshold)

I suggest you look up the meaning of the word maroon.

Darby,You suggest ... (Below threshold)
Robert the original:


You suggest I look up the meaning of the word maroon? I am quite well aware of its several meanings, and its history, including the frequent usage by Bugs Bunny that turned it into something of a joke some long time ago.

As insults go, this is about as mild as you can get making my expressed shock sarcasm.

You either didn't know that Bugs used this word in the same way that Michael did, didn't read my comment carefully, or have some genetic defect.

Either way the problem is yours, so please F**K OFF.

>Indeed, select military st... (Below threshold)

>Indeed, select military strikes by the British might now be far more likely

Nehhhhhhhhhhhh-ver gonna happen.

Iran gets away with it again.

The last thing Britain or t... (Below threshold)

The last thing Britain or the U.S. will do is to target oil production sites in Iran, as this would only have the effect of doubling world oil prices and destroying the Western economies within weeks. And both China and Russia with huge dealings with Iran would have plenty to say about this as well. But Iran will almost certainly cut off the Strait Of Hormuz and attack Saudi and Kuwaiti oil sites though, so expect to pay much more for gas if you can even find it. Copper was so scarce in WWII, pennies were made out of steel for example. Gas becoming high priced or even scarce is nearly a given. Iran plans to eventually control the oil sites in Iraq after the U.S. troops leave, so they will likely ignore these oil sites though, but will likely choke off oil traffic from the entire region.

Another important factor is that the Iranian definition of success and the Western definition of success in this crisis are far different. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a fanatical apocalytic end-timer who as Mayor of Tehran even had the streets widened in preparation for an end time prophet to be able to walk down these streets. According to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's version Islam, triggering a vast military showdown with the Christian world and losing your life is to gain paradise, whereas those in the Western world would prefer to live another day. Ahmadinejad represents the ultimate in a suicide bomber mentality. If he brings great destruction on himself or his nation, then it does not matter because he earned paradise by proving his faith to Allah by standing up to a superior foe. Room to reason with such a foe is greatly limited.

Likely Iran is hoping to extort Britain into recanting support for the UN sanctions over their nuclear program, and taking hostages seems like a reasonable extortion notion to this extremist terrorist government in Tehran.

Certainly the U.S. and Britain can heavily bomb military or nuclear research sites in Iran. But Iran holds many cards such as launching massive chemical or biological missile attacks on Israel, drawing in more Muslim supporters, as well the use of advanced silkworm or antiship missiles to sink several British or American midrange size ships.

With the problems of doubling oil prices in the Western world as a result of any major war with Iran in the MidEast, the Western world is really limited in whatever good options it holds witthout inflicting serious damage to our own economy and way of life. Your life would really change if gas was rationed as a result of war and you have to ride the bus, or your place of work closes because there is not the oil to operate, or prices for many items including food skyrocket due to higher transportation costs. $5.00 to $8.00 a gallon gas as a result of war with Iran would really anger the public against Washington like never before.

This crisis with Iran has no easy answers or solutions without causing huge problems that are far worse than doing next to nothing. This is the same mess that Carter was in 1979 with that hostage crisis. It is far easier for the Western world to hurt themselves more than help themselves in such a situation. Certainly Iran cannot get away with this, so perhaps Britain could push the UN for freezing more Iranian assets and apply more pressure as a start, so Iran gets the message that hostage taking is unacceptable and costly to them. Some situations you just cannot bomb your way out of, and this is probably one of them.

I think you overestimate Ir... (Below threshold)

I think you overestimate Iran's resolve, and you surely overestimate their military.

It will be interesting to s... (Below threshold)

It will be interesting to see if the Falklands response was Thatchery or British. Well, since she was British, I can answer that.

Wow, I suggest that everyon... (Below threshold)

Wow, I suggest that everyone look up the meaning of the word maroon, and I get insulted and told to fuck off. I'm impressed with myself. I make a neutral statement and someone takes it as a personal attack against them, I don't think it can get any better then that.

If/When Wizbang adds the option to reply to a certain individuals comments then misunderstandings like this won't happen. My suggestion to look up the word maroon was for everyone.

I (meaning Myself) suggest you (used in the plural sense, you all) look up the meaning of the word maroon.

Next time I will attempt to make myself a little clearer that my statement was not meant as a personal attack on anyone.

I forget how hot blood can run here. So for that I apologize for any misunderstanding.

Let me translate for Darby<... (Below threshold)

Let me translate for Darby

Wow. I suggest, due to my obviously superior intellect, that people wake up and realize that the perpetually offended my be offended by the double meaning of an obscure racist term never in common use in the US. I am then taken aback when it seems that I am not the first pretentious little bugger to make this argument, and that it seems a world famous cartoon character has used the term in a non-racist way for far longer than I have been on this Earth.

If/when the world learns that my way of thinking is obviously superior, (and) then misunderstandings like this won't happen. My wisdom and beneficent sharing thereof was for everyone.

I (meaning an obviously smarter, better person than you) suggest you (you small minded racists that oddly have more of a sense of humor and history than I) look up the meaning of the word maroon. Because if you did do as I (you better) suggested (ordered), you'd see how offensive it is to firecrackers.

Next time I will attempt to pull the stick out of my bum and not assume that everyone is further down the ladder of evolution than I. Though you are, I will at least not let it show in my clearly superior postings.

I forget what an utter prat I am. So for that, I apologize for not having the sense to breath, count to 10 and then try not to overact when reading postings on blogs.

"Some situations you just c... (Below threshold)

"Some situations you just cannot bomb your way out of, and this is probably one of them. "

I know of one type of bomb that would clear this situation up in a hurry :-O

There's a reason why we don't negotiate with terrorists, and that same reason is exactly why we should:
#1) Start using alternative energy means (not developing, as they've been developed for years).
#2) Clear the entire middle east out with a few nukes.

No one left to bitch about the British navy supposedly invading their waters, no more of our troops dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Yes a bit extreme, but it's a no muss, no fuss way out of it all. Push a few buttons and watch the worlds problems just melt away. LOL

Yup, I smell the shredded p... (Below threshold)

Yup, I smell the shredded papers burning at the British Embassy now...Brits clearing out of Iran...and the Arc Royal steaming for that location. First, the six ships of the Iranian guard involved will be sunk. Then the oil ports. Yeah, looking forward to see the oil fires on the TV. When will the Brits break diplomatic ties? Less than two weeks especially now that the photos are on TV. Bombing in three weeks or less. Fun. Poor Iran...nobody is in control...that's why they shouldn't have nukes.

Three comments to make:<br ... (Below threshold)
J R C:

Three comments to make:
1. You should be under no illusion that the United Kingdom is more than capable of launching unilateral military strikes against Iran, even if it could not launch an invasion.
2. You should not even begin to compare the rescources needed to target Iran with the military logistics required to target Argentina - Britain has many military bases in the Middle East, and allied states.
3. Iran is in no way has the military capabilities of Argentina.
4. That idiot who compared compared Iran to Imperial Japan should get his facts straight - if I were Japanese I would be seriously offended!






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