Trying to squeeze every last drop of propaganda value from it, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has announced the release of the 15 captured British sailors and marines.
“On behalf of the great Iranian people, I want to thank the Iranian Coast Guard who courageously defended and captured those who violated their territorial waters,” the president told a press conference.
He then interrupted his speech and pinned medals on the chests of three Coast Guard officers involved in capturing the British sailors and marines in the northern Gulf on March 23.
“On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet (Muhammad) … and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people — with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial — forgave those 15,” he said, referring to the Muslim prophet’s birthday last Saturday and Easter, next Sunday.
“This pardon is a gift to the British people,” he said.
Please assure me that no one in Britain will actually respond to this “gift” with gratitude to the Iranian regime.
Ahmadinejad criticized Britain for deploying Leading Seaman Faye Turney, one of the 15 detainees, in the Gulf, pointing out that she is a woman with a child.
“How can you justify seeing a mother away from her home, her children? Why don’t they respect family values in the West?” he asked of the British government.
Update: An important point mentioned by Robin Wright in a Washington Post piece:
Tehran was… unable to rally significant public support for another long-term showdown like the 1979-1981 hostage ordeal involving 52 American diplomats, experts added. “There was no nationalist bounce out of this,” said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “All the usual people you’d expect to be frothing at the mouth simply weren’t.”
And indeed, an anti-British protest by 200 students in Tehran– no matter how noisy and violent– contrasted markedly with the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who shouted “Death to America” at demonstrations during the earlier hostage crisis.