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Col. Austin Bay analyzes who won and lost in the UK/Iran hostage affair.

Thursday, April 5, 2007
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HH: Joined now by Col. Austin Bay, retired United States Army. And of course, Col. Bay can be read at www.austinbay.net/blog. Col. Bay, I want to talk to you about the latest in the Senate and House shenanigans, but first, your reaction to the Iranian/Great Britain standoff, leading to the announcement of, though I’m not certain yet executed release of the prisoners. What do you think?

AB: Well, it looks to me like they are about to be released, or are being released. I mean, if you take a look at what Google says, there’s a piece up now that says questions abound after British soldiers released. So I’m going to go on the assumption that they have actually been freed. I think that is the outcome that Great Britain and the United States needed to get the hostages, the illegally, criminally kidnapped British citizens who were hijacked by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, to have them returned from prisons of a terrorist regime. So saying all of that, Hugh, here’s the situation, as I analyzed it in a column I did last week, and did on a couple of other radio shows. I think that was the best possible outcome, particularly which I did not see the British fulfill, the rhetorical requirements of the despicable Ahmadinejad regime. Ahmadinejad gets to call the release a gift. Well, we all know that’s horse hockey. He gets to pardon them. We all know that’s horse hockey. They didn’t commit any crime. But nevertheless, the fifteen British citizens are returned.

HH: Now let me ask you, though, who wins this in the court of public opinion, Austin Bay?

AB: I don’t see that this is necessarily a win-win or a lose-lose. I do see that the Iranians at least briefly, albeit briefly, got the UN Security Council sanctions, and their illicit nuclear program, off of the front page of the international media. Hostages became topic one. If that’s a win, that’s a very evasive sort of win. U.S. Western power remains in place, extraordinary Western power. You got a fresh look, in case you needed a reminder, of what this regime is about. Hugh, you and I are potential hostages to a terror-harboring, terror-encourage, terror-utilizing regime like the Iranian regime. It’s not just sailors and Marines conducting search and board operations in the Shatt al-Arab. Everybody is a potential hostage. That’s a reminder, and I think in a certain lens, that’s a useful reminder, and that if you’re looking at this and toting up information wins, that’s an important information point.

HH: I am talking with Austin Bay, retired Colonel, United States Army, of course author of many find novels, and blogger at www.austinbay.net/blog. Col. Bay, here’s the bottom line for me, and I’m asking a lot of people this. Is the Iranian government more or less likely to seize vessels at sea after the last two weeks, and that’ll tell me who won and who lost.

AB: Which part of the Iranian government is what I would ask you, and I’m not asking you that to be cute, because I see this as an indicator that the factions within Iran are grappling, within the Mullahdom, are grappling with one another. Does it make it more likely that an Iranian Revolutionary Guard ship, boat, if it gets the chance to get a drop on a Western vessel, more likely British, possibly U.S., does it make it more likely? It’s very tough to say what a radical mind will decide to do in a moment of opportunity, Hugh, so I’m not going to say that it makes it more likely that at order from Tehran, will be sent to conduct an operation like this. Actually, in the short to mid-term window, I think it makes it less likely.

HH: That’s what I think, and I think it’s for this reason…

AB: I think that they have actually gotten burned a little bit on this, because as far as we can tell, based on the information we have now, they did not get any of the Iranian spies that the United States holds that were arrested in Iraq back, they got no other concessions other than your typical diplomatic slipperiness that comes out at the British foreign office in a situation like this. They actually got a significant portion of the British and American public angry and riled up at them.

HH: That’s what I want to get to. You know, you and I worked together on www.victorycaucus.com.

AB: We both support what Victory Caucus is about…

HH: Exactly.

AB: …which is about winning the War On Terror, which is a war for modernity, a war for civilization.

HH: And so when that first unveiled, there was a lot of slipperiness in the Republican Caucus in the Senate and the House…

AB: Oh, well, and that’s politics, Hugh, and that’s part of the reason that, I won’t include you in this, but I’ll include myself in this, why I’m not a politician. I just don’t want to engage in that.

HH: But I do think that it had a salutary effect of reminding the Republicans, and a few Democrats, that we were very serious about this war, and they’d pay a political price, and they stiffened up in the last three weeks. I’m thinking that the Iranians watched the reaction. You got Speaker Gingrich saying start the bombing next week, thirty days from now if they don’t loose the hostages, he meant at the gasoline refineries, and their shipping, we’d board that. They saw a lot of people around the West saying very harsh things, and realizing that maybe this was not Jimmy Carter’s Oldsmobile, that this might be a different world.

AB: Hugh, I think that reinforces the point I made, that people know, all of us are potentially hostages to a regime like Iran. It’s not just uniformed personnel.

HH: So, on the whole…

AB: Diplomats have been hostages before. That happened in 1979, when the Khomeneists attacked the U.S. Embassy, and took the entire U.S. Embassy hostage.

HH: So I think they blinked.

AB: This is the way these kind of outlaw regimes, and I will say that again, outlaw regimes, because they operate outside the law…this is a characteristic, and it’s…people have been reminded of that. They did hear the harsh rhetoric, and in enough places on the internet, and the open media, you saw target lists appear, including the one I understand that Speaker Gingrich suggested, which was knocking our Iran’s refinery.

HH: Right. So they blinked. I will go with that. Now my question is, what lesson should our Senate and House take from this? I think it’s one that firmness of purpose in rhetoric makes people…Austin, can I keep you for an extra segment?

AB: You bet.

– – – – –

HH: Col., when we went to break, I was posing to you the proposition that if firmness works, and I think it worked in the Iranian standoff, shouldn’t our Senate and House be voting resolutions of support for the Petraeus offensive, as opposed to date certain defeat resolutions?

AB: Oh, in my opinion, yes, absolutely. The defeatist tent of currently Democratically-controlled Congress is, not only is it morally reprehensible, it’s strategic idiocy.

HH: Now given…what do you make of the Petraeus offensive? I’ve seen, oh, there were more casualties last month, I’ve seen oh, there are fewer American service people…

AB: All right, as quickly as I can possibly state it, I’m something of a contrarian. I’m not the six month, we’re going to know by August or September, even though I know General Petraeus has said he’s going to give a report in August or September about what he thinks of the success of the operation, I think this is something we will know about its effectiveness in about ten to twelve months. That’s the time frame I look at it, and that’s…that said, are the early indications good? Yes. Reinforced presence, these joint security outposts, joint security positions have brought troops into neighborhoods that were open areas of open warfare. We’ve driven some of the sectarian militias either underground or begun dismembering them, and we certain had some extraordinary successes against al Qaeda in Iraq. But again, it’s not the military component that is going to be decisive in this phase of the Global War On Terror, as it’s being waged, in Iraq. That military decisive phase concluded sometime in April or May of 2003. It is the political reconciliation process, and the future building process, economically and politically, in Iraq, by the new Iraqi democratic government, that will be decisive.

HH: Austin Bay, always a pleasure, my friend, thank you. www.austinbay.net/blog. Go there to read his latest columns. He’s also a columnist at www.townhall.com.

End of interview.

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