Thursday, July 09, 2009

Events in Iran - An Analysis

What are the Americans buying for the release of the five Iranian diplomats? Their release yesterday after almost two years of captivity raises serious questions, especially considering the timing and context. The West and Iran have been in a state of undeclared war since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Granted there have been periods of detente, such as the Israeli arms sales to the revolution and American assistance during the Iran-Iraq war. Recently, we saw a slight thaw with the Americans requesting Iranian assistance in supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan, as well as the undeclared agreement to cede Iraq to Iran's sphere of influence. But this kind of behaviour has been the exception rather than the norm and when the riots began in Iran over disputes about the elections, the West was quick to show where its sympathies lay. The response from Iran has been swift against what it called Western interference in its affairs, and in particular singled out the British government as the "most evil".

The saga with the diplomats is the latest in a series of tit for tat killings, kidnappings and publicity stunts by both sides. It began in January 2007 when five Iranian diplomats were seized in Iraq during a time when the United States was complaining about Iranian meddling in Iraq. The violence during this time was extreme. During January the Mossad also assassinated Ardeshir Hosseinpour, a scientist on the Iranian nuclear programme. In February that same year, a sixth Iranian diplomat is "kidnapped" in Iraq, but no group comes forward to claim responsibility. in 2007, a bizarre kidnapping of five British personnel, a civilian and four body guards, took place right under the noses of the US army. The Times reported a year later that the five were being held by Revolutionary Guards in Iran but overall the media coverage of these men over the past two years was minimal - surprisingly. On the 23rd of March 2007, the Iranians announce their capture of 15 Royal Navy Sailors whom it claims were within its territorial waters. The British denied this and typically brought out their whiteboards, marker pens and ordinance maps on the news to explain themselves in front of their public and the world. This is still considered to be the greatest insult in the history of the Royal Navy and the event turned into a media circus which humiliated Britain. On the 3rd of April, the people who had kidnapped the sixth Iranian diplomat released him, it is still not known who had been holding him. The very next day, Mahmoud Ahmedi Nejad announces the release of the prisoners as a "gift" to the United Kingdom.

Two years later and the only two remaining and unresolved issues from that period were those of the five Iranian diplomats, held by the United States, and the five British personnel who were being held by Iran. One of these is said to have killed himself in captivity, whilst two of them were shot and their bodies handed over to the occupation forces in Iraq the day following Khamenei's warning to the West not to meddle in Iran's internal affairs and after his singling out the British government as the cause of the disturbances. There are still two hostages who are being held by Iran and it is probably highly likely that the release by the Americans of the five Iranian diplomats could be as a payment for the release of the two remaining British hostages. This may be because the United States and Britain do not want more attention than necessary focused on what has happened to these five men - the forgotten - especially after two of them were executed. It also raises other serious questions about what role Britain has played in the riots in Iran.

In another note, there has been a sharp rise in the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan - could this be the start of an Iranian response to British meddling? The recent G8 meeting in Italy also had a meeting scheduled in combating the drugs trade in Afghanistan, but the Iranian delegate had withdrawn from the meeting following Khamenei's speech a few weeks ago and did not attend. Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose daughter (and effectively himself) were placed under house arrest at the start of the riots distanced himself from the protestors when it became clear that they cannot dislodge Ahmedi Nejad and place the corrupt Mousavi in his place. His attempt at dislodging Khamenei, something well within his considerable political power, also appears to have fizzled. The highest ranking Iranian employee in the British embassy is now facing charges of espionage and playing a crucial role in what has happened in Iran following the elections. The arrest of the naive French student is probably a red herring and only a warning to the French to not think about sticking their noses in other peoples business. So all the loose ends have been tied up and Iran is now mopping the protestors, who are now left to their own devices.

The silly 'green' revolution is over. As Walid al Mualem, Syria's cunning Foreign Minister said, whoever had bet on the collapse of the Iranian revolution made a big mistake. I think now, the last serious attempt to dislodge the Islamic Republic has failed, and there is a much bigger chance of Israeli attempts to bomb Iranian nuclear installations than before. The Saudi and American nods of approval are an indicator of things to come.


عمر نصر الدين said...

I would like to apologise to you about a misunderstanding that took place on one of the English language Syrian blogs. It looks like I was using the same username for Qasyun, my Arabic language blog and some people thought I was you!! I am sorry if you have trouble in the airport when you come back to Syria


PS. Your blog is interesting - I was going to ask you why you write in Englsh but then I saw your link explaining why! Insha'Allah we will see you back home soon and with an Arabic Maysaloon.

Maysaloon said...

Hi Omar,
No problem. Welcome to the wonderful world of Syrian blogging, it's a very small place as you can tell and the good names run out very quickly ;)

I hope you didn't cause too much damage! (just kidding)