Ed mentioned Kerry’s statement earlier but it really deserves to be preserved with video. Nothing says “appropriate response” like parading the other side’s forces with their hands in the air on TV and airing footage of a captured servicemen formally apologizing for misdeeds:
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) January 13, 2016
The commonly accepted term for that is “hostage video.” I wonder what was said to that sailor to make him submit to that humiliation on camera. Iran claimed last night that U.S. officials also apologized to them, although the U.S. denies it. Whom to believe?
This footage of the seizure of the crew and of the sailors in captivity violates the prohibition in the Geneva Conventions against exposing captured troops to “insults and public curiosity” and yet we’ve got one unnamed Obama advisor talking up how well the sailors were treated and the Secretary of State himself thanking Iran publicly. One fear universally echoed by skeptics of the Iran deal was that it would force the White House to bend over backwards to avoid even the perception of conflict with Iran. Any point of conflict, after all, would give opponents of the deal reason to howl that Obama should tear it up and reinstate sanctions. Worse, it might give Iran itself reason to walk away, leaving Obama’s biggest foreign-policy “achievement” — and his hope for rapprochement with Iran — in ashes. The White House, critics therefore predicted, would have no choice but to act as “Iran’s lawyer” in the court of public opinion, downplaying Iranian misdeeds in order to claim that diplomacy is working. How’s that prediction looking today? How did it look last week, when Iran objected to new U.S. sanctions over its ballistic missile program and the White House responded by quickly yanking them off the table?
This supposedly simple naval misunderstanding, which even the Revolutionary Guard claims was the result of a “mechanical problem” with one of the American boats, seems to involve a lot of gratuitous humiliation by Iran. Which raises the question: Why did Kerry feel compelled to make this statement publicly? He’d already issued a written statement thanking Iran for their cooperation, as noted by Ed. Why compound the embarrassment by thanking them again on camera after they’d made a spectacle of the sailors? This cuts to the fundamental problem with the nuclear agreement — in the end, we need the deal moe than Iran does. They have the leverage and both sides know it. We’re days away from lifting $100 billion in sanctions, which should have made Tehran very eager to resolve the situation with the sailors as quietly as possible. Instead they turned them into propaganda because they know the White House has no choice but to spin hostile behavior by Iran as no big deal. I think Kerry’s goal in speaking publicly was, surreally, to try to claim this incident as proof that diplomacy is working because, after all, no one on either side ended up dead. In reality, I think it operates as reassurance to Iran that yes, even in a humiliating situation like this, Team Hopenchange will continue to go to the mat to protect cordial relations, even if that requires America’s top diplomat to embarrass himself in front of the country.