Analysis: Beyond the British Sailors
Council on Foreign Relations
April 3, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner
From the moment it began, it was clear the confrontation between Iran and Britain over the capture of fifteen British military personnel would be no isolated incident. First, there is the nuclear issue. Britain has sought to internationalize the dispute by raising complaints at the UN Security Council and European Union, both of which are involved in levying sanctions against the regime over its refusal to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. It remains unclear if the seizure of the British naval personnel was in response to the latest round of UN sanctions against Iran. Also, Iran’s handling of the crisis—by airing footage of the sailors giving what the British government says are forced confessions—could further isolate it (USAToday). Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the regime already “has awful public diplomacy” (PBS). Even Russia, one of Iran’s main economic allies, has distanced itself from Tehran in recent weeks, although it did press to soften last week’s Security Council statement related to Iran’s seizure of the British personnel.
Second, the ongoing crisis may affect multilateral negotiations on Iraqi security issues. An upcoming regional conference—a follow-up to the March 10 meeting, which would bring senior U.S. and Iranian diplomats in the same room to discuss Iraq—has been called into question because of the current standoff over the abducted sailors. No venue or date has yet been set. News reports also suggest the Iranian foreign minister would be a no-show (Turkish Weekly) as long as the United States still has members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in custody in Iraq. But a State Department spokesperson said Washington still planned to attend the next round of the conference.
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