Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The United Nations won't defend its agents

This an editorial from today's Toronto Star with which I am in complete agreement. There are so many wishy-washy, western civilization-loathing Canadians who cannot see the importance of taking strong stands on issues like these and who forget which team they should rooting for. It's nice to see a newspaper that I believe normally caters to these useful idiots (thank you, Vladimir Lenin, for the phrase) taking such a stance. I wonder if the head editorial writer was on vacation when this found its way into print.

Regardless of how the Persian Gulf standoff between Iran and Britain plays out, the United Nations has emerged looking bad. Simply put, the Security Council failed to forcefully stand up for British troops serving the UN, when they were treated outrageously by a scofflaw regime.

Like Canada's military in Afghanistan, the 15 British sailors and marines from HMS Cornwall who were seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on March 23 were on lawful UN-sanctioned duty. They were assisting Iraq's elected government by monitoring merchant shipping along the Iraq-Iran maritime frontier to thwart smuggling and security threats. They should never have been arrested, much less held this long.

Recognizing that, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government last Wednesday demanded Iran "immediately release" the captives, noting they were engaged in "legitimate and routine boarding operations." In Washington this weekend, U.S. President George Bush went further, calling the sailors "hostages" and slamming Iran's "inexcusable behaviour."

The European Union has also voiced "unconditional support" for the British side, chided the Iranians for "a clear breach of international law," and demanded the troops' "immediate and unconditional release."

Given this barrage of international condemnation, the UN Security Council should have been emboldened to forcefully condemn Iran's outrageous action and to threaten stiff sanctions, if only to deter future attacks of this sort on forces deployed on its behalf.

But the council managed to issue only a feeble statement last Thursday voicing "grave concern" and urging an "early resolution of this problem."

It was a pitiful show of weakness that hurt the UN's credibility and betrayed British troops serving the organization. Far from undercutting Iranian hard-liners such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it will boost their stature and sap UN efforts to get Tehran to renounce nuclear weaponry. It also won't help the United Nations the next time it appeals for countries to provide troops for some peacekeeping mission.

By yesterday, as pressure continued to build on Tehran, senior Iranians announced they want to resolve the crisis through talks with Britain on how to avert future disputes. At the same time, both sides continued to dispute whether the British sailors were operating a kilometre or so on one side of the unclear Iraq-Iran border or on the other.

But even if the British craft did stray into Iranian waters, something Prime Minister Tony Blair denies, Iran's better-armed Revolutionary Guard vessels could easily have warned them off and escorted them back into Iraqi waters. A technical violation of Iran's sovereignty by a UN-approved force would pose no great threat to Iranian security.

Even so, Iran's forces arrested the sailors at gunpoint and took them to Iran. They refused British diplomats access, threatened to put the captives on trial and paraded them shamelessly for propaganda, mouthing statements praising their captors and "confessing" they had trespassed.

It was a shameful, lawless spectacle.

The Security Council should have said as much.

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