Iran-UK Stand-off: A Clash of Civilizations

"U.K. has suspended boarding operations in the northern Persian Gulf while the Royal Navy reviewed its procedures "
- First Sea Lord Admiral Jonathon Bond (no relation of James Bond).

Iranian Chess Masters Choreograph the Crisis End

It was a virtuoso almost flawless choreography which ended the two week long Iran-UK crisis (with USA lurking at the back and Europe not far behind) following the James Bond like British intelligence intrusion into Iranian waters. Even the Times online admitted "The captives, including Leading Seaman Faye Turney, 26, were released yesterday in a stunning piece of political theatre by President Ahmadinejad, who brought a bizarre but welcome end to a 13-day drama that held the possibility of violent escalation."   

A similar incident had occurred in 2004 when eight British servicemen were seized after straying over the maritime border. Clearly there is a dispute over where the border actually runs.

Known for inventing the game of Shatranj (chess) Tehran is giving West daily lessons in the subtle art of asymmetric warfare in Iraq and elsewhere the region. But the beaming of the release episode to the centers of western theatre; London, Washington and New York was a masterpiece. When Ahmedinejad's press conference was announced, western TV channels tuned in expecting more of the same blunt talk, which they could then distort (as they did when they alleged the extinction of the Jewish State of Israel, while he had only repeated what Ayatollah Khomeini had said about the disappearance of the communist regime in Russia and so of the Zionist regime.)

Prime Minister Tony Blair, after the release of Blair's dozen (Bakers dozen plus one) and Jane Bond, Faye Turney, insisted that there was no deal done to secure the release, but added that discussions with Tehran during the crisis had opened up channels of communication "that have not been available to us before" and which it would be sensible to pursue.

Iran, meanwhile, claimed that Blair had sent a "letter of apology" the day before the prisoners were released. Ha'aretz quoted , an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying that Iran had received a letter of apology from Britain before the release. Downing Street denied that any apology had ever been made.

In a story titled "Pawns in a losing game: Britain's policy", UK's 'Independent' newspaper of 8 April referring to the release of captives, at cost unknown, but with the death of six soldiers in Basra at the same time, wondered ; just what are our soldiers dying for?, because the return and rejoicing came with a dark shadow of Iraq, with dead British soldiers. Blair directly linked the Tehran regime to the killings of British soldiers in Iraq, saying: "There are elements at least of the Iranian regime that [are] backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq and I repeat that our forces are there specifically at the request of the Iraqi government and with the full authority of the UN." US and UK have been making allegations of Iran' involvement , but have produced no evidence so far.. The tank armor bursting cylindrical device Tehran was allegedly supplying can be easily procured in Iraq as it was being milled for its oil industry.

Iran' Ambassador in London Rasoul Movahedian told the Financial Times that Iran had "showed our goodwill" by freeing the Britons. "Now it is up to the British government to proceed in a positive way." He added that "the prime issue for Iran" was recognition of its right to a nuclear power programme. But that was said before UK organized its counter show to neutralize the Tehran performance.

The Anglo-Saxon credibility lies tattered. Except for the so called Western 'international community', the core consisting of USA, UK, Israel, Australia and a few others, worldwide, few believe in what British and other Western leaders and its corporate propaganda machine or Government controlled BBC churn out, casting a blot on the noble profession of journalism.

Even the US public does not trust Bush and his claims on Iraq war and inflicted a stinging defeat on his Republican party last November, but apparently to little effect so far. The suave and elegant mother of five, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's talks in Damascus with President Bashar Assad, in teeth of the Administration's opposition heralds the beginning of Bush's lame duck period. Of course, she diplomatically claimed " Our message was President Bush's message."

After visiting Israel, Pelosi delivered a message to Bashar from Tel Aviv which was ready to hold peace talks with Damascus provided it stops arming Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria denies that it does. After the Damascus meeting she declared "We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from (Bashar) that he was ready to resume the peace process." "He was ready to engage in negotiations ... with Israel," she added.

Pelosi then went on to the Saudi capital Riyadh to meet with King Abdullah, who recently shocked his staunch ally USA. The King described the US occupation of Iraq as "illegitimate" at a meeting of Arab leaders in Riyadh last week. "In beloved Iraq, blood is being shed among brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation and ugly sectarianism threatens civil war," Abdullah said. Condi Rice telephoned Saudi Ambassador for clarifications. Abrasive John Bolton, the recently extinguished Ambassador to UN (as the Senate refused to confirm him) said the US was in Iraq at the invitation of its government and its presence was further sanctioned by a U.N Security Council resolution.

Everyone knows that the US led invasion of Iraq was in violation of the UN Charter, so affirmed by the Secretary General Kofi Annan himself. Since then quisling regimes in Baghdad have mostly consisted of exiles, western intelligence assets, convicted embezzlers and others, who mostly live away from Baghdad or are ensconced in the Green Zone fortress. The Soviet Union used to say when its troops went into states like Hungary and Czechoslovakia that they were invited. When asked after some time by whom, the reply would be 'We are still looking for them." As for the UN, it is teetering like the League of Nations at the end. USA has destroyed its impartiality and credibility, and gravely undermined international law and Geneva and other Conventions. US along with four other nuclear armed ,also UN veto wielding powers have made mockery of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as in the case of Iran.

Of course there was no quid pro quo (!) said Anglo-Saxons, but access was allowed to five Iranian consular personnel, who were abducted from their office in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. On 4 April, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said an International Committee of the Red Cross delegation including one Iranian had visited the illegally held Iranian consular officials.

Also Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at Iran's embassy in Baghdad was freed last week after being abducted in Iraq in February. Taken from his car by men in Iraqi army uniforms he was tortured by his captors, including CIA agents. "The CIA officials' questions focused mainly on Iran's presence and influence in Iraq," he said. "When faced with my responses on Iran's official ties with the Iraqi government they increased the torture." Iran's Fars news agency reported, "He showed reporters the marks left by torture on his body that are now being treated by doctors."

The US military in Iraq said the coalition forces had not been involved in the abduction or any torture. Of course the CIA does not torture! Some times they ask their friends to do so. Plausible deniability. Compare it how Tehran treated the British captives and how the Americans and the British have been treating suspects in Bagram in Afghanistan, Gantanamo, Abu Gharaib and other black holes all over the world including in Europe. Human Rights organizations have compared these blots on humanity to Soviet era Gulags. Some European magistrates in Rome and Madrid have filed charges against CIA personnel who illegally abducted their innocent citizens for torture rendition in other countries.

During the 1991 US war on Iraq to liberate Kuwait, US and allied troops apprehended in Iraq were treated humanely. This represents the clash of Christian and Muslim civilizations, but they are the branches from the same Abrahmic tree and are a continuation of the battle of the Gods as Karen Armstrong puts it. But unlike earlier Crusades and Jihads, this time the Jews have teamed up with the Western Christians.

James Bonds and Rambos

In a joint Five News and Sky News interview, recorded on 13 March but broadcast on 5 April after their release, captives leader Capt Chris Air acknowledged that he was operating close to the buffer zone between Iranian and Iraqi waters, adding: "It's good to gather intelligence on the Iranians." The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) said this was "all part of modern operations". James Bond stuff. The cover was interdicting smuggling of old Toyota cars in the Gulf.

Tehran somehow got wind off it and used it to confront the captives. Iran would not have taken the step unless it had proof of violation of its waters ( at least a couple of times). Perhaps the British boat had ventured too far into the enemy waters for the British ship Cornwall to intervene ,when the Iranians captured it.

The (MoD) confirmed that the Iranians had made the claim that they had become interested in Cornwall's activities after learning about it on British television interview, but denied the decision to allow the ship's crew to be interviewed while on active duty had jeopardised the mission.

According to the Guardian, the US had offered a list of military options to Britain, which remain top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran , including US combat aircraft mounting aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran. The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. Reportedly UK also requested Washington to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf.

Colonel General Yury Solovyov  commander of Russia's Air Defense Forces Special Command told Novosti. "In line with my assessment, Iran's air defense system is strong enough." "Currently Iran has our [Russian] air defense missile systems, which are capable of tackling U.S. combat aircraft. Iran also has French and other countries' [defense] systems," he added.

It was widely believed in 1979 when US President Jimmy Carter mounted an air operation to rescue US Embassy personnel and others held as hostages in Tehran, that USSR had tipped the Iranians that something was afoot. The operation was a disaster and had to be aborted. It played a significant role in Carter's unsuccessful bid to be re-elected and brought in Ronald Regan, ushering in an era of rabid ultra neo-liberal conservative policies, which are now bringing up fruits adversely affecting the US polity.

Even this time round Moscow warned the West not to aggravate matters. It has been issuing warnings about US naval build up in the Gulf, which many believe is a precursor to attack Iran. Russia would not standby if US and / or Israel try to destroy Iranian nuclear and military installations and even succeed partially. Nor will China be happy, which has a veto in UNSC, with its extensive energy interests and investments in Iran.

"Iranians clearly are a very uncivilized bunch"

As for the Western media now trying to milk the ordeals of their magnificent men and Mata Hari (All that crap projected in "The bridge on river Kawai" must be cooked up as Blair's dossiers and false accusations by Bush Administration prove).The British lads and lass, who sang like canaries on Tehran TV and were genuinely happy at their unexpected release (the US Embassy hostages taken in 1979 stayed put in Tehran for 444 days) are now busy selling to the British media their cooked up stories of valor and defiance, an accepted British calling, also exploited by paramours of the decadent British Royalty.

Reportedly the Royal Marines are planning to sell even the vases given as gifts to them in their 'goody bags' by the Iranians on eBay. The father of one of the hostages said the MoD had suggested the servicemen 'Go out there, tell the truth and make the money.'

The Blair's dozen and Jane Bond are expected to make around '250,000 between them. Faye Turney, mother of 3 year old child, is likely to get the most profitable deal. She is said to have sold her story for '150,000 in a joint contract with a newspaper and ITV. Colonel Bob Stewart, a British commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia, told the Sunday Times that the MoD had turned a military disaster into a media circus. 'The released hostages are behaving like reality TV stars,' he said. 'I am appalled that the MoD is encouraging them to profit in this way.'

In 'The Guardian", Terry Jones wrote a sarcastic piece titled "No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilized bunch".

He said,"I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment --It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes-- And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilized behavior? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognized and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

"If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. --And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilized world: --The inmates of Guant'namo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

" -- The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

"-What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her (Turney) unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilized world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on--."

Released Britons relate stories of Iranian 'trickery'- International Herald Tribune.
Can any one beat the 'Perfidious Albion', as Gen Charles de Gaulle once described the British, having suffered from their duplicity and hypocrisy? When the Brits crowed that the Sun never set on the British Empire, an admirer of cynic Diogenes .remarked that even God would not trust them in the dark .Now down and out and hanging on to US coat tails for crumbs from the world wide loot from the energy sector or from wars as after the 1991 war on Iraq. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf kingdoms ,apart from Germany and Japan were made to shell out hundreds of billions of dollars to primarily protect US interests. One point of irritation for Baghdad was Kuwait's insistence that Iraq return $10 billion it had 'gifted ' brother Saddam Hussein, the Sunni defender against the rising power of 'infidel' Shias of Iran. It turned out to be a costly deal with Kuwaitis shelling out more than 60 billion dollars and also suffered heavy damage during the Iraqi occupation and US led liberation war. But unlike in 1991 there is no one else to pay for this war.

Western counter show

So to counter the Tehran show, Captain Christopher Air of the Royal Marines and others except Faye, perhaps busy writing her memoirs and to avoid inconvenient media questions, were put on to Western TV channels a day after arrival to read out their scripted stories. Captain Air said they were kept in solitary confinement for much of the time. He added that they were subjected to "psychological pressure' and "mind games,' but none of them were physically harmed. The sailors and marines suffered "aggressive questions and rough handling but it was no worse than that,' said Lieutenant Felix Carman of the Royal Navy. "Some of the tactics were an insult to our intelligence.' But their treatment by the Iranian hosts was human.

Iran's foreign ministry said in a statement: "Such theatrical propaganda can not justify the soldiers' mistake. Such staged moves cannot cover up the mistake made by British military personnel who illegally entered Iran's territory. We are sorry that Britain has no knowledge about Islamic culture and Iranian civilization to understand the reason Iran pardoned the British soldiers."

In his Tehran show, Ahmadinejad ha noted Easter's approach, together with the recent birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, and said that Iran was releasing the captives in the spirit of "forgiveness". It was a "gift "to the British people. The British personnel had appeared on Iranian television during captivity, insisting they had been well treated.

Why do M/S Tony Blair, Dick Cheney, George Bush et al refuse to comprehend that USA and UK have little credibility left in the world. Poodle Blair, so described even by the British media , before the invasion of Iraq went around the world to sell Western spins , half truths and lies about WMD and other accusations against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. In media conferences, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister stated that Moscow did not trust the British dossiers. Cheney remains the leading exponent of Goebbels dictum of repeating lies to make them sound like truth, even when once Bush had denied any connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

In a Radio broadcast a few days ago Cheney again repeated the canard that Iraq and Al Qaeda had relations prior to 2003, even after the Congress got the records declassified which clarified that no such relations existed. So what do you do.

With the CIA chief George Tenet sitting behind him Secretary of State Colin Powell told an unbelieving UN audience about the cooked up cock and bull story of WMDs before the invasion. Tenet was later awarded the highest decoration for his 'slam dunk ' certainty of Iraq getting Uranium ore from Niger. A conscientious retired US Ambassador who exposed this canard after visiting Niger had his wife's CIA cover blown off by the administration from the very highest level as the court proceedings are proving .Cheney's chief aid Scooter Libby has been convicted of perjury and other charges.

Home coming celebrations in UK

Western media celebrated the return of the captives with headlines like "Mid-air toasts, facing the media, and finally the family reunions", Homecoming 'dream come true' - crew et al.

According to a study by John Hopkins and Mustansiriya Universities published by the prestigious British Journal 'Lancet' 655,000 Iraqis have been killed as a result of the US invasion and occupation. That was in July 2006. The deadly dance of violence under US watch continues unabated. Bush's new policy of 'Surge' i.e. increase in US troops has only surged the mayhem and deaths. When questioned at the end of last year ,George Bush did not find the figures of the dead in the Hopkins led study credible .He stuck to the figure of 30,000 or so he had declared a year earlier.

Moreover, there are more than 2 million Iraqi refugees living in neighboring Syria and Jordan in addition to 2 million more displaced inside Iraq. Cities like Fallujah , Haditha, Tel Afar lie devastated. How many refugees US and UK, the main perpetrators of this crime have accepted. Very few. So much for their Christian morality and charity! The civilized West!

So what about the homecoming for 3 million displaced Iraqis, from Syria and Jordan and from violence created by US led coalition in their own country. When!

Experts on the Crisis

"I do think that the Iranian leadership was looking for an opportunity to let those placing pressure on Iran ... know that they will not be pushed into positions the United States is trying to push them into," said Farideh Farhi, an Iran researcher at the University of Hawaii. "The incident and the subsequent taking charge of the issue and negotiations by the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Ali Larijani, was a sign by Iran that the country is willing to push back."

"The key decision makers ... may also have calculated that holding on to the sailors was a two-edged sword that was helping to boost the American/British depiction of the Islamic Republic as an irrational/outlaw regime," said Dariush Zahedi, who teaches at the department of political economy and Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley.

"The release of the sailors, once Britain toned down its rhetoric and started negotiating with the Islamic Republic, was also a signal to the U.S. -- emulate their example and we will be more amenable to working with you," Zahedi said.

"It is safe to say that by pushing back in such a public fashion, Tehran has declared its intent to stand its ground," Farhi agreed. "At the same time, by releasing the British citizens in a relatively short and 'civilized' manner, it has also made a statement about how Iranian politics works for those interested in resolving outstanding issues through negotiations.

"Whether the other side takes the message as intended by Tehran is, of course, an entirely different matter."

The western reading was that" despite its conventional military weakness and diplomatic isolation, Iran retains the ability to strike at Western interests when it feels sufficiently provoked. But " when Western powers engage Iran with respect and as an equal, they are more likely to get what they want than when they take a confrontational path designed to bully or humiliate the regime. Neither message might be well received either at the White House or among the neo-conservative and other right-wing pundits who have tried hard to depict the incident as the latest sign of Islamic or Persian barbarism." Barbarism -some cheek !

But the release of the Iranian diplomat, as well as reports that Tehran received assurances that it will have consular access to five alleged Revolutionary Guards ,all these events were not just coincidence, although London and Washington, like Ahmadinejad, insist there were no quids pro quo.

"I personally believe that the US action [in Irbil] ... accounts for why Iran chose to stage its capture of the British sailors," said Prof Gary Sick of Columbia University and former aid to Jimmy Carter. "Iran appears to have gained something from its pressure tactics." This view was supported by Trita Parsi, president of the US National Iranian American Council. "By taking the [British] soft targets, the Iranians put pressure on the US."

Sick agreed: "It is a reminder that Iran has quite an array of asymmetrical options available to it to counter indirectly the actions of the US forces in Iraq and elsewhere."

At the same time, according to Sick, Tehran's behavior during much of the crisis - including both the seizure itself, the precise location of which remains a matter of dispute, and its use of "confessions" by the British captives and threats to put them on trial - will probably have cost it much-needed international support.

"I suspect that recognition of this fact accounts for Iran's desire to end this dispute as promptly as possible," said Sick. "For the same reason, I suspect that this ploy will not be repeated any time soon."

Prof William Beeman, of the University of Minnesota, said: "Iranians have been signaling repeatedly, and not just during this crisis, that they will engage diplomatically, but without preconditions and on the basis of equality. So now they say, 'You see, when we have the upper hand, you see how magnanimous we are; we are a charitable, civilized people. We are reasonable. You can talk with us.'"

Parsi stated : "I think the Iranians thought it was better to declare victory and put an end to the crisis before there was any further escalation." He concluded : "The Iranian message is that if you deal with us respectfully, through incentives, then things can get resolved rather quickly. If you only resort to force or impose sanctions at the UN Security Council, then you'll only get stuck, and Iran will respond in kind. They're hoping that the West gets the impression that that is the incentive structure through which it can make progress with Iran. Whether that will be understood in the West is obviously a complete different question."

The Bush administration's relative silence during the crisis may also have conveyed, inadvertently perhaps, another message - that, despite widespread speculation that its recent military buildup in the Persian Gulf is intended to prepare the grounds for an attack on Iran, it has no wish to do so, at least for the moment.

Prof Juan Cole on the crisis

According to Middle East expert Prof Juan Cole, who writes a very informative daily Blog on the Middle East, "Once the British sailors and marines were captured, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used the incident "to whip up Iranian nationalistic sentiments" and garner popular support for the relatively unpopular government. He believes that "the captives were released when Khamenei was satisfied that Iran would not lose face and he could ensure the situation would not "spiral out of control." He goes on to add that it is "not impossible" that Iran might agree to a nuclear enrichment suspension if a proper formula can be found.

He adds "Khamenei has the difficulty that he represents the ideology of Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, who founded the current Iranian state. Khomeini had developed the doctrine that the clerics should rule until the Islamic promised one, the Mahdi, returned. And Khamenei represents that ideology which is puritan in character, puts restrictions on individual liberties, and is fairly dictatorial. It isn't popular.

"Although Iranians by and large, as far as we can tell, don't much care for this ideology anymore, they are still very nationalistic. And so Khamenei played this capture of the British sailors as a national moment. You even had the medical students of Isfahan University issuing a communiqu' demanding that the British sailors and marines not be released and be punished for their incursion into Iranian national sovereign waters."

"In seizing the Iranians (in Irbil), who, after all, had been invited by the Iraqi authorities, the Americans were seen as behaving aggressively," said Cole. "Now the Iranians have demonstrated that the Anglo-American forces are not in a strong enough position to afford to do these things. They can play tit-for-tat."

"Once the British complained to the United Nations, which issued a statement and other statements and actions followed which " caused Iran to lose face, --it made Khamenei dig in his heels." But on Sunday, the British Defense [Secretary Des Browne], announced that the British were engaged in direct bilateral talks behind the scenes with the Iranians. It's clear that the British were prepared to make representations to Iran, that they had no desire to enter their waters, that they would avoid doing so. So the direct bilateral talks and the pledge not to violate Iranian sovereignty were face-saving for Iran."

Prof Cole explains "Beginning with the first supreme jurisprudent Ayatollah Khomeini , his successor "Ali Khamenei has repeatedly said that nuclear weapons are incompatible with Islamic law, because war, of course, in Islam, is a ritual. It's incompatible with Islamic thinking on war that one would kill non-combatants. And nuclear weapons, obviously, would tend to mainly kill non-combatants."

This is perhaps too simplistic. It is true that the Ayatollahs' rule has not been very popular from the very beginning . Khomeini was a rallying point for all in 1979, against the Shah (caricatured as the sultan or the caliph), the corroding corruption, the excesses of the Savak secret police and its backers, the CIA, the hopes and aspirations of the youth for social justice, the masses suffering from inflation and sudden oil wealth inequities during US ally Shah's regime.

Khomeini provided that unflinching moral and spiritual bulwark against the Shah's armed-to-the-teeth military machine and his mendacity to deny whatever concessions were demanded, and what was held out in the end was too little too late. Many Iranians who opposed the hardline clerics and their killjoy agenda were eliminated, forced to flee or went underground. Even in 1980, disenchanted, only one fourth of Iranians went to the parliamentary polls. Expectedly, many clerics, some even senior to Khomeini, like Shariatmadari, favored political parties and more freedoms. But by sheer force, the radical conservatives took over power, sometimes in spite of Khomeini.

Then the Iranians laid low and dissimulated. When the chance came in May 1997, they voted massively in favor of Syed Mohammed Khatami. He started slowly but surely implementing his agenda, like appointing a woman vice president. But the radical conservative elements would not give in.

All efforts by Khatami to normalize relations with USA failed as since the collapse of the Soviet Union, USA wanted to rule as supreme hyper power and never forgot the hostage crisis of 1979 . Washington wants to keep the Middle East strategic balance in favour of the its Sunni client regimes like Egypt , Saudi Arabia and other kingdoms in the Gulf , who along with the West had supported Iraq in its 1980-87 war to neutralise the rising menace of Shia revolutionary power . West throughout history has exploited the divide and rule policy , in this case between the Aryan Shia Iranians and Semitic Sunni Arabs , but the rise of Iran's Shia power strengthened impoverished and ill treated Shias all over the Arab states; in Lebanon, Syria and made them more vocal in the Gulf states .The fear of the rising Shia crescent since then grips all Western client states in the region.

Then the world changed on 11 September 2001. Iran provided help to USA in its war against Talebans and made another sincere and serious offer to normalize relations with USA. But the Neo-Cons who were crowing of 'making history' were not inclined as their 'American Century Project ' envisaged regime changes in Iraq, Iran, Syria and perhaps even in Pakistan with its nuclear bombs (now under an uneasy alliance, with constant danger of fundamentalist elements in its armed forces and its all powerful intelligence services ISI taking over the country). It was a foolish dream which has turned into a nightmare in the region.

After the thoughtless, if not stupid and ill planned and illegal invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein emerged a Shia ruling dispensation in Iraq, an extremely potent Shia Alawaite ruling regime in Syria, with Hezbollah on a roll in Lebanon.

After two terms for moderate Khatami , whose efforts to engage in a dialogue of civilizations with the US led West were rebuffed, Iranians elected conservative hard line tough talking Mahmud Ahmedinejad in the second round , preferring him over moderate bazari (merchant leader) former President Rafsanjani, Khatami having throw in the towel .But let there be no doubt about the strong nationalist feeling among Iranians of all regions, languages and races .Among expatriate Iranians, even Royalists, the nationalistic fervor exists with no Ahmed Chelebis and Iyyad Allawis in sight yet. The country has survived millennia long rule by Turks, Tatars and Mongols and civilized them all, as it had Alexander and his uncouth Macedonian hordes.


According to renowned journalist Patrick Cockburn, it was the botched US attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to north Iraq that triggered the Iran-UK crisis, with Iran seizing the British sailors and Marines.

On 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They only succeeded in capturing five relatively junior Iranian officials whom they now accuse of being intelligence agents. The US operation was carried out without knowledge of Kurdish government about which they had publicly protested. Did US Consul Paul Bremer not transfer sovereignty to Iraqis in June 2004!

The US objective was to 'seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment. Washington, who reportedly abducted an important Iranian in Istanbul " were after Jafari, who the Americans thought he [Jafari] was there. He was accompanied by a second, high-ranking Iranian official General Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of intelligence of the Pasdaran [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] . Jafari confirmed to the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, that he was in Erbil at the time of the raid. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, told IRNA: "The objective of the Americans was to arrest Iranian security officials who had gone to Iraq to develop co-operation in the area of bilateral security."

Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq said on 7 April that the US forces which captured five Iranians , stationed for legitimate consular work, in the northern city of Erbil three months ago, were really after commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards who were visiting the region as the guests of Kurdish government .The Iranian guests had already called on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.

With US influence diminishing in the Middle East, the Kurds in a hostile environment are perhaps trying to make peace with Iran, as Turkey is fiercely opposed to any autonomy to Iraqi Kurdistan and the forthcoming referendum by the Kurds to grab Kirkuk, floating on oil like Kuwait, after having carried out ethnic cleansing and manipulations.

Barzani also warned Ankara that if it intervened in the referendum, they will create problems in Turkey. Thousands of Turkish Kurdish guerillas are holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan. "Turkey is not allowed to intervene in the Kirkuk issue and if it does, we will interfere in Diyarbakir's issues and other cities in Turkey," Barzani threatened. Diyarbakir is the largest city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast.

Barzani has also declared that the independence and statehood for Kurds (who live in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq) was a "legitimate and legal right". "But I am against the use of violence to reach this goal," he added. Does he have US approval who see an independent Kurdistan (where a big US base is under construction) with defence alliance as an option, as there appears little chance of subduing Iraq's Sunni or Shia Arabs, now engaged in a civil war. After all Iraqi Kurdistan is practically a US protectorate since the end of 1991 Gulf war.

Do not the Kurds know that even a powerful ally like Pakistan must obey US dictates as it did after 11/9 otherwise it was threatened of being bombed to the stone age .Islamabad is now paying the price of reversal of its policies with emerging massive violence along its borders with Afghanistan. It is going to get worse, even threatening Gen Pervez Musharraf's regime in Islamabad .

As for the British success in getting the EU to unreservedly back the UK position, which called for the unconditional release of the prisoners and backed by a commitment to take appropriate action if the Iranians refused, it is obvious that it was but typical EU toothless sabre-rattling. EU has become a collection of squabbling national entities, without any common foreign or defence policy , where petty states lecture Russia but would not surrender even a bit of their sovereignty for a united policy .Let us just take EU's energy requirements. It has choice of total reliance on Russia or get some of it from Iran. Its many leaders are upsetting both the suppliers. China, India and others with galloping economic growth are waiting in the wings with their insatiable energy demand for their 2.4 billion people.

BBC's Pam O'Toole tried to decipher the decision making process in Tehran. She concluded "Iran has many different interlocking - and sometimes competing - centers of power.  At best, the decision-making process there is opaque. It is often difficult to know who makes the decisions on some issues - something which causes immense headaches for Western countries trying to negotiate with Tehran.'

It is more equitable than in USA, where till the November trashing of Bush's Republican party, the legislative wing was in the pocket of the executive .And with Democrats not any different in their policies , it looked like a one party state .As for its judiciary , as the lawyers remain loyal to the party nominating them, even to the highest court , seen so clearly in 2000 Presidential elections and on the question of reduction of individual liberty in Bush era or White House's ability to appoint White House favored Attorneys, one wonders what kind of democracy US leaders and its subservient corporate media now talk about. In the last six years US political system has regressed towards a totalitarian system. And of course the shots are called by those who control arms manufacture and energy industry, leavened by pervasive Israeli Jewish influence in all branches of decision making . Aspirants for 2008 presidency stakes like Mrs Clinton and Obama are now being auctioned to the highest bidders. Yes, Ms O'Toole the decision making process in USA it is crystal clear.

There have been media reports about possible US attacks on Iran's nuclear sites and military installations , some even suggesting 6 April morning .The Iranian show came just before that deadline .Serious and clear headed Americans like Seymoor Hersh, Scott Ritter and others have been warning the American lawmakers, that in a crazy move the Bush Administration might exercise that fearful one of 'all options are on the table'. And change the course of human civilization on planet Earth, for the worse.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail:


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