Independent Democracy

Thought provoking commentary

Had Iran snatched Americans, there’d be a new war – Gwynne Dyer

There was an excellent column in today’s paper by Gwynne Dyer. He asks the question what would have happened if Iran took American troops hostage rather than British troops last Friday. Dyer suggests bombs might already be falling on Iran if the Revolutionary Guard had abducted the wrong boats. I really hate to pass judgment on Tony Blair since the U.S. reporting on this international incident has been fair at best. I assume the BBC and British newspapers are all over this story. However, from what I’ve seen, Blair hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot. When U.S. troops were taken hostage by China back in 2001 when their plane collided with a hotshot Chinese pilot, Bush was also non-confrontational. This really surprises me. Iran has been labeled a terrorist state and I think they are very much responsible for some of the ongoing problems in Iraq. So why or why is Britain not doing more to get their hostages back?

Here’s the full article by Mr. Dyer. It’s really good.

26 March 2007

Iran: How To Start a War

By Gwynne Dyer

“I don’t want to second-guess the British after the fact,” said US
Navy Lieutenant-Commander Erik Horner, “but our rules of engagement allow a
little more latitude. Our boarding team’s training is a little bit more
towards self-preservation.” Does that mean that one of his American
boarding teams would have opened fire if it had been them in the two
inflatable boats that were surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast
patrol boats off the coast of Iraq last Friday? “Agreed. Yes.”

Just as well that it was a British boarding team, then. The fifteen
British sailors and marines who were captured and taken to Tehran for
“questioning” last week are undoubtedly having an unpleasant time, but they
are alive, and Britain is only involved in two wars, in Iraq and
Afghanistan. If it had been one of Eriik Horner’s boarding teams, they
would all be dead, and the United States and Iran would now be at war.

Lt-Cdr Horner is the executive officer of the USS Underwood, the
American frigate that works together with HMS Cornwall, the British ship
that the captive boarding party came from. Interviewed after the incident
by Terri Judd of “The Independent,” the only British print journalist on
HMS Cornwall, he was obviously struggling to be polite about the gutless
Brits, but he wasn’t having much success.

“The US Navy rules of engagement say we have not only a right to
self-defence but also an obligation to self-defence,” Horner explained.
“(The British) had every right in my mind and every justification to defend
themselves rather than allow themselves to be taken. Our reaction was, Why
didn’t your guys defend themselves?'”

So there they are, eight sailors and seven marines in two rubber
boats, with personal weapons and no protection whatever, sitting about a
foot (300 cm) above the water, surrounded by six or seven Iranian attack
boats with mounted machine guns. “Defend yourself” by opening fire, and
after a single long burst from half a dozen heavy machine-guns there will
be fourteen dead young men and one dead young woman in two rapidly sinking
inflatables, and your country will be at war. Seems a bit pointless,
really.

It’s a cultural thing, at bottom. Britain has a long history of
fighting wars and taking casualties, but the combat doctrines are less
hairy-chested. British rules of engagement “are very much de-escalatory,
because we don’t want wars starting,” explained Admiral Sir Alan West,
former First Sea Lord. “Rather than roaring into action and sinking
everything in sight we try to step back, and that, of course, is why our
chaps were…able to be captured and taken away.”

That emollient British approach is probably why the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard chose to grab British troops rather than Americans. It
was obviously a snatch operation: the Iranians would not normally have half
a dozen attack boats ready to go even if some “coalition” boat checking
Iraq-bound ships for contraband did stray across the invisible dividing
line into Iranian waters (which the British insist they didn’t).

But it was not necessarily an operation ordered from the top of
Iran’s government. In fact, there is no single source of authority in
Iran’s curious system of “multiple governments,” as one observer labelled
the impenetrably complex division of responsibilities and powers between
elected civilians and unelected mullahs. The Revolutionary Guards (who are
quite different from the regular armed forces) enjoy considerable autonomy
within this system.

According to the US authorities in Iraq, the five Iranian diplomats
arrested by US troops in a raid in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan last January
were actually Revolutionary Guards, and it would seem that their colleagues
want them back. Kidnapping American troops as hostages for an exchange
could cause a war, so they decided to grab some Brits instead. And it will
probably work, after a certain delay.

In this episode, the American reputation for belligerence served US
troops well, diverting Iranian attention to the British instead. In the
larger scheme of things, it is a bit more problematic.

A quite similar snatch operation against the equally belligerent
Israelis last July led to a month-long Israeli aerial bombardment of
Lebanon and a retaliatory hail of Hezbollah rockets on northern Israeli
cities. Well over a thousand people were dead by the end, although nothing
was settled.

Any day now, a minor clash along Iraq’s land or sea frontier with
Iran could kill some American troops and give President Bush an excuse to
attack Iran, if he wants one — and he certainly seems to. If the
Revolutionary Guards had got it wrong last Friday and attacked an American
boarding party by mistake, he would have his excuse now, and bombs might
already be falling on Iran. All the pieces are in place, and the war could
start at any time.

Disclaimer: The comments in the article are the personal opinion of Mr. Dyer. The blog owner is not  for or against what he has said. I just though it was an interesting opinion piece.

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March 29, 2007 - Posted by | Current Events, Iraq, Military & War, Politics

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