But as to the humiliation, imho the UK was humiliated, first, because the fairly pathetic Iranian navy managed to capture members of Britain’s senior service while they were in Iraqi waters, and without firing a shot, because the British Rules of Engagement apparently don’t allow for proactive self-defense. The UK was humiliated second in its sailors’ and Marines’ apparent haste to offer up confessions and apologies to their captors. The third humiliation came at the end of the standoff, when the sailors and Marines gave Mahmoud a big thumbs up on their way out. Throw in the headscarf, the partying, the goodie bags etc while we’re at it. Iran also got to distract the world from the continuing standoff over its nuclear weapons program for a while, and may have won access to its officers currently held by the US in Iraq.
I’m still persuadable that the Royal Navy is more to blame for the hostages’ behavior than the hostages themselves, first because of the Rules of Engagement and second in the code of conduct for captured British military personnel. I just don’t know what the British code is and to what extent it reinforces loyalty, duty, honor and the idea of resistance to one’s captors. After this incident, I suspect that the British code isn’t much like the US code of conduct. If that’s the case, it’s harder to blame the hostages then the Royal Navy itself for the way they behaved, since the Royal Navy apparently doesn’t do much to prepare and harden its personnel against the tactics captors may use.
In the final analysis of this crisis, it’s possible that both Iran and the UK blinked. The UK didn’t want a fight, and Iran may have gotten a little nervous with so much attention focused on them. It’s possible. It’s also possible that the combination of a carrot–access to the Iranians held in Iraq–and a stick–the presence of two US aircraft carriers lurking in the Gulf with a third on the way–got the sticky situation unstuck. It’s not possible that the threat of UK military action made any difference, since no such threat was ever offered. It’s also not likely that UK diplomacy did much good, since the mullahcracy tends to react to normal European diplomacy with scorn. It’s very possible that Hezbollah’s known presence in the UK stayed Blair’s hand. At this point it seems likely that the US played a major though mostly silent role in freeing those hostages, probably to keep Tony Blair from going under for good. If that’s true, then the UK was essentially bailed out by the US against ambitious rogue state Iran.
Humiliating? I think so.
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