Tuesday, April 03, 2007

British hostage crisis: Bullying, manipulative Iran? No change there, then

No comment really...

The Times-Oscar Wilde insisted that “life imitates art far more than art imitates art”. What would he have made of the present hostage crisis? Twenty-four hours before Iran seized 15 Britons its mission to the UN issued a statement expressing outrage at 300, a movie based on the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. In this epic struggle between a small band of Spartans and a massive army of Persians, the ancestors of modern Iran have been painted, the protest ran, as the “embodiment of evil, moral corruption”. They have a point. According to Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History at Cambridge University, Persia was “not a one-dimensional barbaric despotism” but, then again, it was “by no means well disposed to Greek-style democracy” either.

Not much seems to have changed in 2,500 years. The behaviour of Tehran over the past ten days has been akin to that of a one-dimensional barbaric despotism, while its contempt for the values of the democratic world is no less acute than it appears to have been in ancient history.

...There is endless discussion about how to separate the “moderates” from the “radicals” in Tehran. It is a largely futile exercise. The blunt reality is that Iran has been a menace from the moment that Jimmy Carter, with monumental weakness, decided to force the Shah into exile and so permit Ayatollah Khomeni to return from Paris to assume control. Iran has sought to destabilise the Middle East peace process, undercut Lebanon’s sovereignty and undermine other regimes in the region for almost 30 years. It has done so while men lauded as “moderates” were state president. The Iranian regime has been the embodiment of theological Trotskyism: permanent revolution is the core of its collective ideology. So why are we surprised that it has taken this chance to treat British citizens so badly?

...The lasting lessons of this saga should be obvious. They are that Iran in the hands of the mullahs is not, as has been claimed in the past week, “erratic”, “incoherent” or “unpredictable”, but consistent in its outlook and objectives. They are that there will be no stability in the most potentially explosive part of the planet while this regime is permitted to operate as it has been doing. They are that the only plausible middle course between the unattractive choice of backing a military endeavour against Iran or accepting that Iran will have the Bomb is an economic blockade on a scale far larger than France or Germany, never mind Russia and China, have been ready to contemplate. That resolve, though, is essential. For if this is what Iran is already like, what on earth will happen if it ever commands nuclear weapons?