(Tehran) The images coming from Iran are unsettling to Western viewers, British sailors purportedly confessing their entry into Iranian waters while on an anti-smuggling mission in the Arvandrud/Shatt al-Arab. With Faye Turney's scarved face now the symbol of this incident, many in the West are calling for retaliation.
There is certainly a "blast them back to the Stone Age" reaction being voiced by members of the media and throughout the blogosphere. China Confidential is exemplary of this type of rhetoric:
The choice is simple and stark: (1) mass death in Iran, or (2) mass death in Israel, the United States, and Europe, and on US bases in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.Hyperbole aside, there are voices within the Bush administration who are in agreement with these sentiments. My suspicion is that the war hawks probably fell all over themselves at the fortunate arrival of this provocative Iranian action.
Either the mullahs die, or we die.
The seizure of the British sailors, though, might signal a political split between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and leaders of the Revolutionary Guard. As much as Ahmadinejad has been demonized in the Western press, he is far from the most fundamentalist or war-mongering among the Iranian leadership. An attack on Iran would simply send the Iranian war hawks into the ascendancy.
Left: Third letter from British sailor Faye Turney; click for larger image
The third letter from Faye Turney certainly sounds like it was coached, or even coerced. There is little doubt that Turney is being used by the Iranians for propaganda and/or bargaining value, but it is important to set aside our momentary disgust and ask an important question:
Is this worth a much wider regional war, one that might lead to a worldwide conflict?
There is still time to work a deal, free the British sailors, and avoid turning a relatively minor international incident into an excuse for full-scale war in the Middle East.