The kidnapping of 15 British sailors in the Persian Gulf is a very serious violation of international norms. Those 15 were inspecting an Iraqi ship to see whether she was carrying smuggled oil, which was only too likely – the Iraqi government is losing immense sums of money through such smuggling. British sailors carrying out such a duty are no concern of Iran’s. The ship’s captain and now the British authorities state positively that the sailors were in Iraqi waters. Even if that proves mistaken and they had strayed into Iranian waters, there was no cause to hijack them – they should have been met, had the situation explained to them, and sent on their way. Instead, the Iranians have charged them with espionage, which carries the death sentence. This is obviously a concoction. What could there be to spy on from two small boats in the middle of those waters?
The Iranian regime wants a test of strength in the belief that it will win it. God is on their side, they like to emphasise, and this means that they love death for his sake, while Westerners love life, lost in decadent dreams of creature comforts. The Iranian regime has gained a great deal out of previous tests of strength of just this kind. It held the American embassy hostages in full view of the world. It sent suicide bombers to kill American marines in Beirut. Only last summer, its agents in Hezbollah crossed into Israel, killed some Israeli soldiers and fled with two hostages who to this day have not been returned, while their captors refuse to give any evidence that the two unfortunates are still alive.
The 15 British sailors are all too likely be maltreated, dressed in Guantanamo orange suits, forced to make confessions, paraded on television, and perhaps put in front of some mullah who will browbeat them in court and even sentence them to death.
The Iranian regime needs the satisfaction of putting the British to shame publicly, and for a long enough period to be seen to be victorious. The hatred is very real, and with it comes fear of being humiliated. The British have caught Iranians covertly aiding terror in Iraq, and providing explosives to kill British troops. The British are also pressing for meaningful sanctions to prevent Iran from going nuclear. A few days ago, an Iranian general crowed that Iran could capture some blond and blue-eyed people, “and feed them to our fighting cocks.” He probably had those sailors already in his sights as targets. You’re challenging us, the Iranian regime is telling the West, very well, let’s have a test of strength, and then we’ll see who is the stronger.