To no oneâ€™s surprise, Iran has denied that it mistreated the 15 British military personnel it held hostage for nearly two weeks. A spokesman for Iranâ€™s president said such claims were “lies” and that the claims of abuse were made “under pressure” from British intelligence forces.
The British crew members were seized two weeks ago by Iranian forces who surrounded their boat for allegedly entering Iranian waters illegally. Several of the hostages made “confessions” on videotape, saying they had indeed strayed into Iranâ€™s territorial waters. But once freed and back in Britain, the former hostages retracted those statements, saying they were made under duress.
Some of the sailors and marines said they were stripped, blindfolded, their hands bound, and emotionally abused. One of the hostages said he could hear guns being cocked, and assumed he was about to be shot. Another heard a fellow crewman vomiting, and thought his throat had been cut. The lone female hostage, Faye Turney, was stripped down to her underwear, held in solitary confinement, and told the others had been released and, unless she confessed, she would face seven years in prison.
These reprehensible acts are nothing new for the Iranian government. The 444-day hostage crisis that began on November 4, 1979 also had its share of fiendish actions. The 66 hostages (14 were released early, some for health reasons) were frequently paraded in public and subjected to physical and verbal abuse. In the most atrocious examples, the hostages were threatened with torture, permanent imprisonment, or death. And, to show the truly degenerate side of the Iranian captors, they frequently engaged in such infantile acts as conspicuously placing nose hairs in the hostagesâ€™ food. Great fun in the grade school cafeteria -Â appalling in diplomatic circles.
Of course, one of the most abiding effects of the 444-day hostage taking by the Iranians was the dire results it had on President Jimmy Carterâ€™s reelection bid. Although it was Carterâ€™s team that successfully negotiated the final release of the captives, the frustrating nature of the seemingly interminable bargaining certainly contributed to Carterâ€™s defeat. The hostages were freed just minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in, leading to speculation (still viable) that behind-the-scenes negotiations between Reagan operatives and the Iranians timed the hostagesâ€™ release until Reaganâ€™s victory was assured.
The sum and substance of these actions by Iran – from the 1979 hostage crisis to the most recent kidnaping of U.K. military personnel on the high seas – point to the unhappy fact that we are dealing with a rogue nation that revels in tweaking the nose of the worldâ€™s superpowers. The outcome inevitably ranges from humiliation visited upon the stronger adversary, to serious and lasting damage, as in the case of the Carter-Reagan election tampering.
What glee and malicious satisfaction there must be in Teheran and other Islamic capitals, knowing that any affront to the western superpowers, other than another 9/11, will go either unanswered or unchallenged. While top military officials in Britain declared that the most recent hostages played by the rules, did not give anything away, and “acted with considerable dignity and courage,” the incident was another in a long list of humbling experiences visited upon the British and the Americans. Given that 70% of Americans now say they have no stomach for further military action in Iraq, Iran, or elsewhere, we are being permanently branded with the term paper tiger.