A tale of two societies: Iran’s PR coup

For all the stage managed propaganda by the Iranians over the release of the captured British sailors, there is no way to overstate what a successful PR bonanza this has been for them. Karl Rove must be green with envy.

The feud started badly for Blair with the unavoidable comparisons between the images of sailors in comfortable surroundings and the all too familiar images of Iraqis being humiliated at Abu Graib. No orange jump suits, no razor wire, no hoods, no electric shocks, no dogs let loose on them, and no rape. The right wing punditry tried desperately to invoke outrage at the images of the female member, Faye Turney, wearing a head scarf. The efforts were in vain, ironically undermined by the images of Nancy Pelosi brandishing one, while treated as a guest during her visit to Syria.

Bill O’Reilly’s interview with retired Colonel Ann Wright, 29-year veteran of the US Army, perfectly summed up the decay of the British and US moral credibility. Wright has been training military personnel about international law and the Geneva Conventions for most of her career.

WRIGHT: “I want to make sure the United States treats people properly..”

O’REILLY: “Sure you do. Sure you do.”

WRIGHT: “I surely do. That’s what I spent 29 years of my life trying to do.”

O’REILLY: “Sorry. No you didn’t. You know what happened to you”¦somewhere along the line you started to dislike your own country”¦.”

WRIGHT: “I served 29 years. How many did you serve? Where did you teach the Geneva Conventions?”

O’REILLY: “Cut her mic.”


The impotent saber rattling from the Blair government, was compounded by the shameless hypocrisy of Washington and London as they dared to cite the Geneva Conventions, a concept both have shown utter contempt for during the past 5 years. The public may have a short memories, but they haven’t forgotten how the embattled US Attourney General, Alberto Gonzales, referred to the Geneva Conventions as “quaint”. The United Nations Security Council showed little interest in providing anything more than cursory support for the release of the sailors, and things only got worse for Blair when the Bush administration decided to weigh in on the crisis with his predictable buffoonery.

What could have been resolved so easily within 48 hours, rapidly got out of hand for Blair, who initially seized on this crisis as an opportunity to mimic his clueless role model in Washington and whip up patriotic fervor in Britain. As it turned out, the public wasn’t in the mood.

The British press stopped short of calling Blair a liar. Letters written newspapers from the public suggested that the Iranian government was regarded as more trustworthy than Blair, and Washington further rubbed salt into the wounds by declaring that had they been American sailors, they would have fired back on their abductors.

The MSM keeps telling us how Iran is isolated, but what this revealed was how isolated and helpless Britain have become. For Iran, the victory here had many facets. It has been widely received as a triumph of quiet diplomacy.

The The Guardian described Wednesday’s press conference as:

“a sophisticated piece of political theatre, in which the president turned what had become a diplomatic disaster for Iran into something of a personal victory.”

The UK’s former ambassador to Tehran, Richard Dalton, said Britain had:

“found a ladder for Iran to climb down” through “real discussions of substance behind the scenes” which had been vindicated by the result.

..and that:

Iran was still “more rational actor than rogue, and diplomacy is still the best way forward,”

From the Independent:

“We may never know what bargain, if any, was struck to obtain their freedom.” But, the paper concluded, “jaw-jaw is still far, far better than war-war.”

Iranian’s image a a rogue state has certainly been given a welcome face lift, and dare I say it, undermined Washington’s and Israel’s campaign to justify an attack on Tehran. President Ahmedinejad extracted every ounce of humiliation for Blair, when at the press conference he said:

“On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet (Muhammad) … and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people — with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial — forgave those 15,” he said, referring to the Muslim prophet’s birthday on March 30 and the Easter holiday.

“This pardon is a gift to the British people,” he said.

Now that’s just cruel.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common