PLAYING GAMES….Mario Loyola is a hawk’s hawk, so it’s interesting to hear his take on the 15 British sailors taken prisoner by Iran last Friday:

Don’t necessarily believe what the British say about what those sailors were up to when they were detained. There’s probably a 90-percent chance they will tell the truth, but there is often a lot more to these international “incidents” than meets the eye. The British will say that their sailors were in Iraqi waters and the Iranians had no business being where they were. But the Iranians are unlikely to have provoked an international incident under circumstances as clear-cut as that. And in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Iranians were actually responding, in this case, to a carefully planned provocation of our own.

Now, being a hawk’s hawk, Loyola thinks this is just dandy. After all, the Iranians haven’t expelled IAEA inspectors and started enriching uranium in bomb-making quantities yet, but they might:

When the Iranians get belligerent, we have to respond in kind. Iran is getting ready to expel the IAEA inspectors. The United States needs to make it clear that the expulsion of the inspectors will be considered an act of aggression, and that we will respond appropriately.

So, long story short: It wouldn’t surprise me if the British sailors were detained because the British did something to make the Iranians really angry. Khamanei dramatically upped the ante this week. We probably raised. And they probably raised back. The stakes in this nuclear-poker game just got a little higher.

I don’t think Loyola is right — his scenario sounds like something from a guy who’s been getting a little too sweaty watching episodes of 24 — but what makes it fascinating is how obviously delighted he is about the whole thing. He likes the idea that the British may have deliberately engineered a provocation. He likes the idea that tensions are being ratcheted up. He thinks nuclear poker is a great game.

Bottom line: he’s an up-and-comer! Expect him to get drafted as a first round pick by the vice president’s office soon.

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