Breaking News: British Sailors Freed
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced today that the 15 British sailors and Marines captured by Iran on March 23 would be released. Iran had alleged that the UK seafarers had been in Iranian waters, which Britain denies.
The decision to keep the British naval personnel for a couple of weeks and this decision to release them were made by Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, not by Ahmadinejad, who appears to have been relatively muzzled by his superiors during the crisis itself.
I argued in Salon that the episode was used by Khamenei to whip up nationalist fervor and more public support in Iran for his unpopular regime.
These sorts of incidents are always to some extent about face, and apparently the Iranians felt that when Britain agreed to enter into direct bilateral negotiations, Iran had gained enough face to be magnanimous. Ahmadinejad specifically condemned the earlier British multilateral approach of arranging for a UN Security Council condemnation of Iran (in which Tehran lost face).
The speed with which British diplomacy secured the release of these sailors and Marines proves for the thousandth time that the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which called for military reprisals against Iran instead, is delusional in its warmongering. What is *wrong* with those people?