Here we are again. Almost 30 years after its first hostage-taking, Tehran continues to do what it does best.
As a newborn regime, the Islamic Republic infamously violated America’s embassy walls and held American citizens hostage for 444 days. That was followed by decades of kidnappings and terror from Iran’s Hezbollah henchmen.
Of course, Iran is not alone. China held 24 American servicemen for almost two weeks in 2001, after a Chinese warplane intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flying in international airspace above the South China Sea. Cambodia seized the Mayaguez in international waters. North Korea held the crew of the USS Pueblo for almost a year.
As with Tehran’s latest act, all of these regimes wanted to extract some admission of guilt, some finding of illegal behavior. It is odd how the appearance of justice is so important to regimes that are so exquisitely unjust. But this is how governments that derive their legitimacy from force act. And far too often, they have gotten away with their gamesmanship.
Predictably, many observers are getting lost in the hedgerows, wandering as they are in tangential debates about dueling GPS devices and the war in Iraq. All of this is really irrelevant to the broader issue here: British sailors, operating under their flag and with an international mandate, were seized. They were not escorted out of Iranian waters by Iranian ships, in the manner a normal navy would behave.
They were not detained, interrogated, and released—rational and reasonable behavior under international norms. They were seized and held captive by a regime that seeks to elevate and sustain itself by humiliating other regimes, threatens its neighbors with annihilation, and trades in terror.
Whether the British sailors and Marines are released tomorrow or today, Tehran’s behavior must be shown to be unacceptable to the civilized world. There must be a price for piracy.
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