Arrogance of Empire
Iran’s capture of fifteen British sailors is fast becoming an international dispute that may hold serious repercussions for both nations. As politicians on both sides scramble to win the propaganda war of words, accusation and counter-accusation, the dispute is slowly beginning to morph itself into a clash of the two nations’ personalities: Iran’s obstinacy vs. Britain’s arrogance.
Iran asserts that the British sailors were captured in Iranian waters, whilst the British claim they were “kidnapped” within Iraqi territorial waters. If the latter were the case, then I find it quite unusual that the British and their American allies are not making more of a fuss than they are about the Iranians violating Iraqi territory. If the British sailors were captured in Iraqi territory, why have the western media not sent their correspondents to the region to broadcast from the exact location of the alleged kidnapping, to visually demonstrate the veracity of the British claims? Where is the BBC news report from the “first on the scene” opportunistic John Simpson? Or perhaps something from CNN, ABC or Fox News? For a story that has dominated news headlines for so long and attracted such international attention, there should be a media frenzy to broadcast from the exact location of the alleged infraction.
Within seven days of the capture of the British sailors, the EU issued a statement demanding their immediate release and the United Nations drafted a statement of condemnation. This only serves to highlight the speed with which powerful western nations can mobilise international institutions, for where are the EU and UN statements in regards to the five Iranian officials who were “kidnapped” by US forces in Iraq?
There has been no contact with them for over three months, yet we hear no words of condemnation or concern from either the EU or the UN.
The Iranians have every right to patrol their own seas and to be nervous of the western presence in the Gulf. In 1988, the US Vincennes, a US warship operating in Iranian waters, mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner, flight 655, killing all 290 civilian passengers on board. George Bush, Sr., Vice President at the time, stated “I will never apologise for the United States of America. I don’t care what the facts are.” Such is the arrogance and attitude of insensitive western nations, so blinded by their thirst for empire that they trample over the sovereignty of nations without any consideration as to the concerns or feelings of the people of the region. How would Western nations respond to foreign warships and patrols off their coasts?
The capture of these sailors has caused deep embarrassment for the United Kingdom, not least because Britain, under Blair, has attempted to cast itself as an international hard man. With the US military hamstrung in Iraq, the impotence of Britain is now becoming apparent. Earlier in the week we were informed by the Prime Minister in a testosterone-fuelled ultimatum, that if Iran did not release the British sailors, the dispute would enter a “different phase.” Well, the Iranians didn’t release the British and what was this “different phase”? Nothing.
The urgency to resolve this dispute is more centred around salvaging the dignity and international image of the British military and government. The US took swift and decisive action against Afghanistan after 9/11. The Palestinian and Lebanese capture of Israeli soldiers last summer, brought swift and destructive retribution from Israel. Margaret Thatcher, too, saved face by taking decisive action against Argentina over the Falklands. All of these facts are what I assume will be currently haunting Tony Blair, as he ponders his next move, conscious of the fact that the world is watching.