Friday, April 06, 2007

Iran hostage crisis, the aftermath begins

We must all be pleased that our naval personnel have been returned, but now they are safe there will be questions.

Firstly what were they doing without air cover?

Why are half our frigates mothballed when clearly another one in the area could have filled in the gaps in air cover?


Then there will be questions over the hostages conduct. The head of the navy has defended their actions in this article on the BBC's website. If I remember correctly the Geneva conventions say you just have to give name rank and number, rather than a televised briefing. We do need to get to the bottom of what went wrong there. It is possible that they felt totally on their own and had to make their own luck, who knows.

Then their is this interesting article in the New York Times (quite a bit to the left of the New York Post) which discusses the merits of diplomacy and engagement over saber rattling and hostility.

There is a difference between engagement and appeasement, Churchill was in favour of the former and against the latter. If we want to stop Iran getting a bomb, in part that is going to involve talking to them.

You can read more on Iran here.

Hat tip to JackW on Politicalbetting.com for the NYT article.

8 comments:

ChrisD said...

Having seen the Iran hostages press conference, it simple confirmed to me that the Naval and Marine personal made the best of a bad situation while held captive.
I think what has become clear is that shortages or cuts in Naval ships and helicopters will show where the problems arose, would the Iranians have taken this course of action had the sailors and marines had adequate cover and protection in place?
The fact the helicopter had to leave them to refuel in the middle of operations leaving them with no protection from the air tells me there was no spare!
Yet again a shortage of helicopters is putting out military at risk, will this government withdraw from this type of operation if it continues to reduce the Navy or will they continue to expose our soldiers and sailors to preventable danger?

Benedict White said...

ChrisD, I broadly agree though am a bit surprised they coughed a confession so quickly.

The error that there was is in the chain of command and lack of proper hardware.

Elliott said...

Our people were clearly outnumbered and outgunned. They were also treated very harshly, which must come as a surprise to the Guardian, which published pieces by Ronan Bennett on 30 March and Terry Jones on 31 March comparing the easy ride Iran portrayed our servicemen enjoying with the brutal treatment meted out to inmates of Guantanamo.

The articles were nasty enough when they first appeared, but I think that the Guardian should apologise for publishing them now and have emailed letters@guardian.co.uk to say so. Perhaps you might consider doing the same.

On the question of engagement, the British policy response from the very first was to rule out the consideration of doing anything other than talk. That weakness has cost us and boosted Iran. And the chances of "dialogue" stopping the Iranian nuclear programme are zero.

ChrisD said...

Benedict, a couple of things have struck me in regard to comments made about the soldiers and sailors "coughing up" a confession too quickly and both make me angry.
We have watched the way that Blair and Brown have used and abused our armed services with grandiose foreign commitments and under the radar of the media cuts in all area's leaving our military in unnecessary and dangerous conditions.
Where is the outrage and anger at this, or the way the bodies come back unnoticed with no coverage or political presence to recognise that they have paid the ultimate price for this government and the people who voted them in?
What about the rules of engagement, what if they followed them to the letter as others have done before and still they have been crucified while the government of the day sits with a "get out of jail" card because we do not publish them!
Some have expressed embarrassment at the behaviour of the hostages but do not even mention or recognise the real culprits who put them in that position, and how quickly we forget the terrible consequences of America's last attempts to deal with an Iranian hostage situation and the way that played out in the end.
Would it have protected our national pride better if they had turned up bloodied, beaten but defiant on our TV screens?
I hope not because we don't deserve the sacrifices this soldiers and their families are paying at the moment, let's see a bit more understanding, recognition and respect from the great British public before criticising our boys and girls any further.

Benedict White said...

Elliott, "Our people were clearly outnumbered and outgunned."

Yes, but when the Royal Artillery did that in WW2 the regiment then had to wear a white lanyard as a mark of cowardice, and still does, despite the fact that as a regiment of heavy artillery when faced with close combat, because there forward forces buggered off, they had a similar no choice situation.

So I don't criticise them for it, but if I had to wear a white lanyard to mark my regiments shame, I can put it in perspective.

"hey were also treated very harshly, which must come as a surprise to the Guardian, which published pieces by Ronan Bennett on 30 March and Terry Jones on 31 March comparing the easy ride Iran portrayed our servicemen enjoying with the brutal treatment meted out to inmates of Guantanamo."

There is no doubt that they were not treated according to the Geneva conventions, but there is also no doubt that training 10 or 20 years ago would have included far harsher treatment than that. They were not beaten, starved or tortured. They had psychological pressure but then if you hear what they said they had faced and have seen some of the training our troops used to go through, you would know which was worse.

Also what happened in Abhu Graib and Guantanamo bay whilst not our issue does make it much harder to condemn this treatment.

"On the question of engagement, the British policy response from the very first was to rule out the consideration of doing anything other than talk. That weakness has cost us and boosted Iran. And the chances of "dialogue" stopping the Iranian nuclear programme are zero."

Our other options were what exactly? Rescue missions have been tried where the location of the hostages location was known. We didn't. We admitted nothing but did promise not to do something we had not done and had no intention of doing.

ChrisD makes some very good points, which is that our service men should not have been in that position in the first place, that our forces feel very undervalued, not having what they need, while all the time more and more pressure is placed upon them.

Fair enough points.

That said it says something about how this government has destroyed our military when in these circumstances we accept they have to think of themselves.

There was a time when the flag carrier of the first regiment to serve aboard ship, the Queens Regiment (now very naffly renamed the "Princess of Wales Royal Regiment" hid his flag in his jacket and fought on losing two arms in the process.

Elliott said...

Thanks Benedict - interesting on the Royal Artillery and good point about training.

When you ask what our other options were, most obviously we could have increased our naval presence in the Persian Gulf to the point where we would potentially have been able to confine the Iranian navy to port and as a last resort blockade their shipping (without any help from the Americans. Surely we have enough surface ships, and especially submarines, to do this.) Even the act of reinforcing ourselves would have shown that we meant business, and that our servicemen don't just join up to "earn a living" and then "get arrested", as Iran's president put it at his news conference on Wednesday.

I know this sounds terribly aggressive and over the top now that our people are back, but I do think that aggressive beats conciliatory when dealing with a basket case like Iran - if we're serious about forcing them to change their behaviour that is.

Benedict White said...

Elliot it is difficult to know exactly what we could have done after the event. They should not have been there, they should have been further up the gulf, there should not have been one frigate there should have been two etc.

The problem with naval issues is that Iran has been developing some effective conventional weapons here and could also blockade the gulf.

"I know this sounds terribly aggressive and over the top now that our people are back, but I do think that aggressive beats conciliatory when dealing with a basket case like Iran - if we're serious about forcing them to change their behaviour that is."

The issue with Iran is, and I exaggerate for effect, is that it is run in part by sane sensible people and outright loonies each vying for power with each other. It is difficult to know exactly how to manipulate the situation and what is clear is that the Americans have not been helping by refusing to talk to any one reasonable from Iran.

Anthony said...

Whatever the details of this case, the Geneva Conventions do not apply as these were not Prisoners of War, as there is no declaration of war between Iran and the UK. Whether such a war should be declared is another matter.