Mahmoud's "Gift"

[Wall Street Journal] Editorial - Having kidnapped 15 British sailors and marines in Iraqi waters and paraded them before the world making "confessions," Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now says he is pardoning them as a "gift" to the British people. While we can be grateful for the captives' release, no one should conclude from this episode that the Iranian government is taking a new peaceful turn, or that its president has become Mahmoud the Munificent. If anything, the events of the past two weeks show the opposite - notably the influence inside the regime of the Revolutionary Guards, who provoked the incident by seizing the sailors in Iraqi waters only hours after a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council to stiffen sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. Hostage-taking has been a tool of Iranian foreign policy going back to 1979, and this was merely another turn of that wheel. One benefit of this episode is that it provoked the press to start reporting on the Revolutionary Guards and elite Qods force. These highly trained and well-financed fighters are the regime's instruments of violence from Lebanon and the Palestinian territories - where they arm Hizbullah and Hamas - to Iraq, where Iranian-supplied weapons are killing American and British soldiers. Many will be tempted to interpret the release of the hostages as evidence of Iran's essential reasonableness, conveniently forgetting who started the crisis in the first place. The lesson of these two weeks is not to slip back into negotiations with Iran in the hope of exploiting some division that may or may not exist between "moderates" and Ahmadinejad's allies. The lesson is for the world to increase the diplomatic and sanctions pressure in response to Iran's threatening behavior and continued nuclear program. That is what will produce more fissures in the regime - as more and more Iranians understand the price of isolation and conclude that the mullahs and their Revolutionary Guards are leading them down a dangerous, losing road.

2007-04-05 01:00:00

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