IRANIAN PRISONER UPDATE….From the Guardian’s after-action report of the Iranian prisoner seizure:

In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.

The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it….The British government also asked the US administration from Mr Bush down to be cautious in its use of rhetoric, which was relatively restrained throughout.

Option A: this shows that the British are spineless wimps and their once-great civilization is on the verge of collapse. Option B: Tony Blair asked the children to please be quiet while the adults were working. Choose whichever one best fits your worldview.

More interestingly, the Guardian claims there is a “remarkable degree of consensus” that this operation was not planned centrally. Rather, some local Revolutionary Guard commanders took matters into their own hands, and once the deed was done it took two weeks to untangle “because their release had to be agreed by all the key players in the perpetual poker game that passes for government in Tehran.” Unfortunately, those key players were all on holiday:

The crucial decision for release was taken on Tuesday by the supreme national security council. It includes representatives of the presidency, the armed forces and the Revolutionary Guard, and Tuesday was the first day they could all be brought together following the No Rouz holiday.

“I think they realised pretty quickly the game was not worth the candle,” a senior British government source said.

I think so too. And while we’re on that subject, raise your hand if you agree with the conventional wisdom that this whole affair has been a PR coup for the Iranian government. I think that’s a pretty short-sighted view. Even countries friendly to Iran appear to believe that this whole episode was a pointless and foolhardy provocation; it’s shown up the Iranian government as weak, disorganized, and unable to keep control of its own military; the propaganda videos released during the crisis were so crude and staged they surely fooled no one; and finally, by comparison with Iran, the British and Americans ended up looking restrained and steady — countries that have no need to perform hollow circus acts in order to get international attention.

Sure, the Iranians didn’t torture their prisoners. But let’s get real. Despite the transparently scripted huffing and puffing out of Ahmadinejad, that doesn’t come close to making this whole thing a win for Iran. This was a plainly stupid miscalculation on their part, and one that they obviously lost control of once it began. Far from being scared off by their bluster, my guess is that this incident will make the world more united in its belief that Iran can’t be trusted with a nuclear program, not less.

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