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Where is Margaret Thatcher when you need her?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
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HH: Joined now from Great Britain by Brooks Newmark, member of Parliament, frequent contributor to the program. Brooks, welcome back, it’s good to talk to you. What is the mood in the House of Commons tonight as Iran refuses to release Great Britain’s sailors?

BN: Well, it’s great to be back on your show, although clearly not on these circumstances. I think the mood over here is fairly somber, and there’s tremendous concern, I think, over how we’re going to handle the current crisis, because over here, we can reflect on two different attitudes to the way things are done. We saw how Olmert reacted to Israeli personnel who were captured on the one hand, and then, we look at another example, which was clearly under President Carter, where Americans were captured. And you had two very different attitudes. One was let’s strike back quickly, and the other one was almost do nothing, and try talking. And both had their negative reactions in the end, unfortunately.

HH: Now there’s a third example, and it’s one that a lot of Americans are talking about. Tell me if you think it’s applicable, and that’s when the Argentineans seized the Falklands. It was sort of holding an island hostage, and a lot of people are asking what would Thatcher do? Is that applicable, Brooks Newmark?

BN: Not really, because you know, they have effectively taken 15 Marines from Iraqi waters, and taken them into the center of Tehran, and they’re probably holding them at separate places. So that’s not really a fair analogy, because there’s not strategic asset or strategic geographic area that we can go and physically take back. I think it’s very difficult, because they’ve taken 15 people from territory that was not theirs, and taken them into a city, and probably have split them up.

HH: What about the idea of, and tell me if it’s been debated, of announcing to the Iranians that if your men are not returned, and one woman, henceforth in 48 hours, 72 hours, that very gasoline-strapped country may find that there’s some accidental explosions going off at their refineries?

BN: You know, it’s…your gut reaction says that. Unfortunately, it’s a very difficult situation from the perspective of Ahmadinejad has actually done very badly, recently, in both municipal elections, and elections to one of the senior advisory councils. So he’s now in a weak position. The worst thing I think that we can do is to do some sort of attack on Iran at this stage, because then, all that would do would be coalesce support around him, which actually has been falling away in the past 6-12 months. So…

HH: Why do you think…

BN: So I think that if we do, with…the gut reaction of the man on the street is, let’s go in and do something, it may have the opposite effect, which is shoring up support for a man who actually we want to get rid of.

HH: Now of course, in the great tradition of the British Empire, Palmerston is remembered for not worrying about what they might do, or how public support might turn around to come to the favor of dictators and tyrants. He always just defended British imperial interests. Is there a sea change in Great Britain, Brooks Newmark? I’m actually surprised that there isn’t more of a demand on the streets of London tonight, that this not be put up with.

BN: Well, no, I don’t think anyone’s putting up with it, but I think clearly, it’s best to see if we can release our sailors without taking further action. Now further action as a next step to the strategy of diplomacy here is, if we can’t through quiet diplomacy get what we want, which is our sailors back, the next step is to say hey, here are aerial photographs of where the boats are, here is exactly where the boat that they were boarding is, and by the way, it is still anchored in the exact same spot it was when the boats were surrounded, which is in Iraqi territory. Now what you do at that stage is you move from discreet negotiations to one of saying hey, we’re showing the public out there this is what you did, it was not in Iranian waters, it is clearly in Iraqi waters. Now that is a next step in the overall strategy of trying to put pressure on Iran to release our Marines and sailors.

HH: Now is that the Conservative Party’s position, that force should be out of the question?

BN: You know, I think that it’s pretty much universal, I think, from all the parties here that we don’t, you know, force is always a last resort in these situations, and at this stage, I don’t see it as part of the strategy of trying to get our Marines back.

HH: The Prime Minister today said that the dispute could move into a different phase if diplomacy failed to secure their release. What did he mean by that?

BN: Yeah, I mean, a different phase is what I was saying. A different phase is saying look, we’ve clearly showed you what is going on here. We’ve clearly showed you, to your representatives in your foreign office, that the boats were in Iraqi territory. If you want us now to move into a more public phase, i.e. to show to the rest of the world very clear pictures, and I don’t know whether they’re satellite pictures or what they are, but I think there’s clear evidence that shows that the boats were taken, and the Marines were taken from Iraqi waters, not Iranian waters. So that is what might be seen from the Iranian perspective as a face-losing move. They don’t want to lose face publicly. Now you might want to say they don’t give a damn about losing face anyway, but you know, I think when it comes to diplomacy, that probably is the next step, would be one of showing to the outside world this is exactly what happens.

HH: If Her Majesty’s government decides that force must be used, would the Conservative Party rally to that?

BN: You know, I think…I think we will do our best to support the government in obviously any way that it can to secure the release of our Marines. But I’m saying that I don’t believe that force is on the agenda at the moment, and I think they will raise the ratchet up through diplomatic means.

HH: And David Cameron, is there some point in your own…David Brooks, is there some point…(laughing) I’m sorry.

BN: Brooks, okay.

HH: Brooks…

BN: Brooks Newmark.

HH: Brooks Newmark. I’m getting all confused with David Cameron, and Brooks Newmark is my guest, member of Parliament. Brooks, is there any point in your own personal calculation where you say looking out a month, or two months, we cannot go back to a hostage crisis like the Americans endured in the late 70’s under Jimmy Carter?

BN: That would certainly be my concern, but the question is then, how do you achieve release? And I think we are very nervous about doing anything that is going to rally support around Ahmadinejad, who as I’ve said, domestically, seems to be losing support, as reflected in the recent, local, municipal elections that they had. So we have to be very careful not to do that, and I believe that through public pressure, through, hopefully, the U.N. and other public bodies, that we can put increased diplomatic pressure to try and achieve the release of our Marines without necessarily the use of any form of force, and that includes the initial suggestion on your program, was to maybe drop the odd bomb here or there.

HH: Not the odd bomb, the one directed at their gasoline refineries, because that is their strategic weak point. But member of Parliament, Brooks Newmark of the Conservative Party, I appreciate your coming on. We’ll check back with you in the days and weeks ahead, and God speed to your Marines and their safe return.

End of interview.

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