Edmonton Sun – By SALIM MANSUR – Taking British sailors hostage just a test of strength
The insolence of the thuggish regime in Iran is rising in inverse proportion to the self-abasement of the West and, in particular, the European Union.
The hostage taking of British sailors by Tehran was a move to test the resolve of Britain and its allies in responding to provocation bordering on an act of war.
Tony Blair’s failure to respond in a manner that could not be misread by Tehran for the immediate unconditional release of British sailors only confirmed the clerical regime’s estimate of the West as unwilling to contend with Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the Persian Gulf region.
Tehran learned from its experience of taking American diplomats hostage for 444 days that the West could be shown for being a paper tiger as China’s Mao had once described it.
The latest Iranian hostage taking should be seen in a wider context of Tehran’s strategic objective of being recognized as the leading Islamic power in a multipolar world wherein Europe and the United States are no longer dominant, and in the United Nations the countries of Asia and Africa provide for the majority bloc of voting members.
Iran’s ascent to the position Tehran’s clerical regime aspires might only be realized by dividing the Arab opposition to its ambition, defying the Security Council’s various resolutions to stop its bid to acquire nuclear capability, and securing Russian-Chinese support to nullify any threat of EU singly or in combination with the U.S.
From the outset of Iran’s 1979 revolution the regime’s supreme clerical guide, Ayatollah Khomeini, maintained the road to Jerusalem and the "liberation" of Palestine was through Karbala, the Iraqi site of martyrdom for the Shiite Imam Hussein and his family. In other words, the Persian Khomeini offered the Arab-Palestinian nationalists the example of Shiite martyrdom as the means for waging war against Israel.
Iran has succeeded in dividing the Arab states by positioning Hezbollah as its fifth column in the heart of the Arab east, and by financing the Hamas among Palestinians. A fragmented Arab world nursing innumerable grievances is unable to counter Iran’s age-old Persian ambition reincarnated in Islamist ideology and financed by bulging oil revenue.
The EU negotiations with Tehran to cease its no longer secret nuclear program in return for assistance to construct nuclear reactor for civilian use has proven to be a charade.
European trade with Iran has grown over time, and commercial interests of France, Germany and Italy trump any EU concerns over Iran’s race to become a nuclear power.
Nuclear capability is the guarantee the clerics seek to make Iran’s position in the Middle East invulnerable to external challenge. Domestically it would make the clerical regime more formidable even as Iranians increasingly loathe the totalitarian rule of Khomeini and his political progeny.
Tehran’s probing of Britain’s resolve by kidnapping its sailors could be indicative of the British mood being the same as in the rest of Europe, of appeasing and accommodating Iran. If this is so and clerical rulers of Iran are proven right, then only President George Bush stands between Tehran’s ambition and its consummation.
But the Bush administration is beset with problems exacerbated by a swing in American mood in the direction of European appeasers.
The clerics in Tehran will wait out the remaining months of Bush in the White House for they know too well the Democratic party of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and taking British sailors hostage is their endgame move to run the West out of the Middle East.