Monday, June 21, 2004

The Enemy Offensive Begins

If there's any doubt that the enemy full-court press has begun, the seizure of three RN smallcraft by Iran and the attack on 4 US Marines in Ramadi, probably by Ba'athist special forces, should erase any doubt. Fighting with the Ba'athists began again after the US killed two dozen foreign terrorists in Fallujah. It was only a matter of time before they struck back, as they do in Lebanon, where many of the Syrian-backed fighters train with Hezbollah. That was expected. But the seizure of the Royal Navy patrol vessels is surprising because it represents a public and unilateral escalation by Iran. As a political statement, it must rank with Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, which was calculatingly delivered against a weak Jimmy Carter. It is an indication of how politically emasculated the Mullahs think the Coalition is, that they should have attempted this at all. Shortly after the conclusion of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Mullahs were practically trembling on their thrones. But now they smile; the BBC has done its work well.

The origins of the seizure, which have no apparent operational rationale, are rooted in the April 2004 offensive against Coalition Forces in Iraq. Iran saw that the US was unwilling to engage in large-scale combat operations against either the Ba'ath in Fallujah but more importantly against Moqtada Al-Sadr in Najaf in an election year. Instead, American commanders attempted to finesse the situation by applying limited and targeted force hand in glove with political warfare. Teheran saw that if those were the rules they were willing to play.

If the British sailors are not forthwith released it suggests that the Mullahs see Blair and his American ally, George Bush, as reduced to impotence by domestic political forces and see an opportunity to humiliate them. The Mullahs should be careful about trying to replay history. Karl Marx said "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce"; little knowing how apt his sneer was; in time he would be to Hegel as Napoleon's nephew was to Napoleon. The problem with putting Tony Blair in the batter's box where Jimmy Carter struck out is that Blair will immediately realize how not to approach this problem. Jimmy Carter lost his job by scraping to the Mullahs and Tony Blair did not come this far to alphabetically precede Carter and Chamberlain in the dictionary of failures.

Although the Iranians may try to dominate the agenda with the usual television parade of hostages and prisoners, just as their terrorist counterparts in Iraq and Saudi Arabia do with their captives, the only real question should be how to humiliate the Mullahs. Tables were made to be turned. They should be made to remember this day so that if their miserable theocracy lasts another ten years they can never bring themselves to look at a calendar opened to the month of June without trembling. The British Tories are subject to periodic and nagging bouts of patriotism, a feeling the Democrats have conditioned Teheran to believe is extinct in the Western political opposition and whose consequences may now surprise them. The Mullahs have rolled the dice and the only answer should be to insert them, one by one, between their bearded lips.