The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (Source: frenchnavy.free.fr)The US Navy flexed its muscles Tuesday in its strongest show of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Two aircraft carriers, 100 warplanes, 10,000 US military personnel participating in war games in the cramped and contested straits of the Gulf, the fabled French carrier Charles de Gaulle nearby -- it all sounds like an attempt to clue Tehran into its own vulnerability.
Yet the entire game of brinkmanship being played out in the Gulf between British, American, and Iranian players is, to my mind, entirely obscure at present. What's behind the Iranians' capture of 15 British sailors? If you believe the notorious John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, the Iranians timed their stunt to coincide with the Security Council vote last Saturday on tightening sanctions against them. On the other hand, the British, at least some of them, seem to believe that the Iranian's had in mind a prisoner exchange of Brits for Iranian agents captured by the US in Iraq.
Also, does anyone else have the impression that this story isn't drawing the press coverage or comment it merits? Some Brits do. Guardian columnist Max Hastings blames Britain's loss of worldwide moral authority. While that may have something to do with a lack of sympathy coming from some quarters, in Britain and the US, I get the sense that leaders are anxiously awaiting developments. This may explain Tony Blair's cryptic public statement:
"What we are trying to do at the moment is to pursue this through the diplomatic channels and make the Iranian government understand these people have to be released and that there is absolutely no justification whatever for holding them. I hope we manage to get them to realise they have to release them. If not, then this will move into a different phase."