Interesting developments in the new Iranian hostage drama. European governments appear to be backing the idea of escalating sanctions or punitive measures against Iran over the kidnapping of 15 British sailors and marines from Iraqi territorial waters. Even the Guardian newspaper is sounding increasingly belligerent.
The EU threatened to act against Iran last night if it did not immediately and unconditionally release the 15 British sailors and marines it has been holding for more than a week.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Bremen, Germany, threatened "appropriate measures" if Tehran did not let the group go, supporting Britain's position that the crew had been in Iraqi waters when they were seized eight days ago. The ministers did not spell out what measures would be taken, but British diplomats hoped they would involve an escalating array of punitive steps.
The tough statement was the kind of direct rebuke Britain had sought in vain from the UN security council on Thursday night when, in the face of resistance from Russia and others, the council only expressed concern but threatened no action. Despite the EU statement, prospects for a quick resolution to the crisis dwindled yesterday after another propaganda video and letter featuring more dubious confessions and apologies by the captives.
The only glimmer of hope for a quick diplomatic solution was a note presented yesterday to Britain's ambassador in Tehran, portrayed by Iranian officials as conciliatory, which bore some resemblance to a letter sent shortly before the end of a similar drama in 2004.
Iran is growing more bold – and hence acting with less rationality – directly as a result of the political posturing going on in the United States. As the US displays more and more internal disarray, it is going to get a lot worse in the world in the near future.