Go ask George Bush. It's his fault. His administration is utterly unwilling to release Iranians -- several of whom were invited by the Iraqi government or travelling under diplomatic immunity -- from indefinite detention in exchange for the British soldiers. Instead, he's upped the ante by referring to to the captured British soldiers as "hostages", while having his people announce that it's ultimately a matter that the UK must diplomatically address with the people in Iran.
In other words, the U.S, is talking tough, but is absolutely refusing to assist the British people -- their supposed closest ally -- with any diplomatic, non-violent initiative to resolve the issue.
Some kind of ally, eh? Sounds to me like the British are being held hostage by the neoconservatives, not the Iranians. The British people are being dragged by the Bush administration into a geopolitical game of chicken... a "Rebel Without a Clue" like race to the edge of the cliff, to determine who will chicken out first.
But can anyone please explain to me how this penis-waggling exercise will actually be more likely to get these British soldiers released, more than, say, inking a prisoner exchange?
What we're seeing on Iran's part isn't terrorism, and it's a mistake to describe it as such. Rather, it's more akin to Cold War diplomacy, where one side captures the other side's people. In the Cold War era, whenever prisoners were taken, all sides involved would ink a quiet, diplomatic prisoner swap.
And the thing is, such exchanges worked, in that they were extremely important in order to avoid the risk of a larger, potentially nuclear, confrontation. Soviet Russia fell victim to changing economics and openness -- Peristroika and Glastnost -- so mission accomplished and bullet dodged... at least for the time being.
The thing is, no sane person out there -- well, except the neocons -- believes that war with Iran is a good idea, as such a war would be diplomatically, militarily, and politcally unwinnable in any conventional sense of the word. Even if the U.S. "wins", it doesn't win, in that the surge in world oil prices alone would throw our economy into a tailspin. We'd be extremely vulnerable, not only in Iraq and in Afghanistan, but also at home. In the event of such a conflict, I would be very much surprised if we didn't see Chavez threaten an oil boycott for instance. Likewise, oil tanker traffic throughout the Persian Gulf could grind to a halt with just one well-placed missile... or the threat of one. And since we live in a world where mere threats can impact the world's markets just as much as actual events, who cares about what the reality might be about how such a conflict went militarily?
Of course, the worst possibility is that the neocons actually want a war with Iran. And hey, why not? Unsurprisingly, many neocons are amongst those most likely to profit from any potential conflict.
Times Online mentioned the following quote recently:
“The Brits have laboured mightily for many years to prevent the United States from pursuing vigorous action against Iran,” sneered Michael Ledeen, a prominent neocon and Middle East scholar who has long argued for regime change in Tehran. “Now they will have to answer to the families of the hostages.” Ledeen argued that coalition forces should “undertake the legitimate self-defence to which we are entitled”, and attack terrorist training camps and bomb factories inside Iran."
Who is Michael Ledeen? He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute -- the prominent neocon thinktank that called for the invasion of Iraq *before* 9/11. He is regularly consulted by Karl Rove, George W. Bush's closest advisor, and is arguably Rove's main international affairs adviser.
Not exactly a good state of affairs.