31 March 2007

Iran and the 15 captives: let's have a sense of proportion

Great umbrage is being taken by Western politicians and media toward Iran's arrest of 15 British sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf. The umbrage may be justified; however, it should not cause us to lose sight of the fact that the event is trivial relative to the larger events taking place in the vicinity. Not trivial, certainly, to the 15 captives and their loved ones, but trivial to the victims of that same British military and its American accomplice waging an illegal war against Iran's neighbour. Trivial to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead and their loved ones, to the millions of refugees, and to all those Iraqis who see their country being utterly destroyed. While Western politicians demand UN Security Council action against Iran, they are mute about action against Britain and the U.S. for its vastly more aggressive behaviour in Iraq. They lack any sense of proportion.

Iranians have suffered over a hundred years of bullying by the British, so it isn't surprising they are deeply apprehensive about British troops on their doorstep. This history includes an invasion in 1941, the imposition of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as shah, the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh government in the 1950s, and support for Saddam Hussein in his 1980-88 war of aggression. The British claim their personnel were still 1.7 nautical miles outside Iranian waters when they were taken -- lots of room for the Brits, too damn close for the Iranians.

The Iranians see the British everywhere they look: fighting a war on their eastern border, fighting a war on their western border, prowling ominously in the Persian Gulf. They must wonder if the sun will ever set on the British Empire.

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