Iran has pulled off a tidy little success with its seizure and release of those 15 British sailors and marines: a pointed humiliation of Britain, with a bonus demonstration of Iran's intention to push back against coalition challenges to its assets in Iraq. Further, it exposed the impotence of all those transnational institutions - most prominently the EU and the UN - that pretend to maintain international order.
The quid pro quos were not terribly subtle. An Iranian "diplomat" who had been held for two months in Iraq is suddenly released. Equally suddenly, Iran is granted access to the five Iranian "consular officials" - Revolutionary Guards who had been training Shiite militias to kill Americans and others - whom the U.S. had arrested in Irbil in January.
Where then was the EU? These 15 hostages, after all, are not just British citizens but, under the laws of Europe, citizens of Europe. Yet the EU lifted not a finger on their behalf. Britain asked the EU to threaten to freeze exports, $18 billion a year of commerce. Iran would have lost its No. 1 trading partner. The EU refused. So much for European solidarity.
Ironically, the existence of transnational institutions makes it harder for collective action against bad actors. In the past, interested parties would simply get together in temporary coalitions to do what they had to do. That is much harder now because they believe such action is illegitimate without the Security Council's blessing.
The capture and release of the British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the "international community" and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the Security Council and get a statement that refuses even to "deplore" this act of piracy. Then turn to the despised Americans. They'll deal some cards and bail you out.
April 07, 2007
Britain's Humiliation - and Europe's
From Britain's Humiliation - and Europe's by Charles Krauthammer:
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