Cole In Salon Irans New Hostage Crisis

Cole in Salon: Iran’s New Hostage Crisis

My column, “Iran’s new hostage crisis,” is out at Salon.com.

Excerpt:

‘ The capture by Iranian Revolutionary Guards of 15 British sailors and marines on March 23 has set off a diplomatic crisis and mobilized the public in both Britain and Iran . . . Why would the Iranian leadership risk such a confrontation over a minor issue? . . .

With Iran facing huge challenges at home (an economy in tatters) and abroad (mounting pressure over its nuclear program), Ahmadinejad and his reluctant patron, the Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, desperately needed a diversion. . .

Ahmadinejad’s alienation of potential Iranian supporters such as Russia and China with his regular undignified rants against Israel and the West has cost Iran dearly at the United Nations Security Council, which has voted for a series of potentially serious economic sanctions in response to Tehran’s attempts to enrich uranium for nuclear energy. Iranians, who saw how oil-rich Iraq was reduced to a fourth-world country by U.N. sanctions in the 1990s, are anxious about their own fate.

Ahmadinejad’s domestic and foreign policy failures have emboldened his enemies, especially Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president (1989-1997) who now heads the clerical “senate” called the Expediency Council. Rafsanjani has taken to openly denouncing Ahmadinejad’s policies. Even the president’s own right-wing supporters are threatening to vote down his budget, which contains another 20 percent increase in public spending.

A lot of Iranians could not care less about Khomeini’s clerical ideology at this point, but most are still intensely nationalistic. Given all the student protests against hard-line policies in recent times, it must be sweet indeed for the ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad to see universities become the sites of anti-British denunciations. ‘

See also Gary Kamiya’s Last Chance for Middle East Peace

and

Glenn Greenwald on persistent lies on the Right about US public opinion regarding withdrawing from Iraq.