We'll have to see what actually happened behind the scenes in the welcome release of British soldiers before we can figure out who blinked and when. But the spectacle today is one of Ahmadinejad milking the moment for all its worth. The public apologies by the sailors, the choreographed television shots, the use of the word "detainee" to describe the Brits, and the Easter "gift:" this is all propaganda for the Tehran thugocracy. Ahmadinejad has used the Revolutionary Guards to buttress his domestic support with this spectacle, but he may have had to make some concessions internally. We'll see. But I don't see how the U.S. benefits from this fiasco in any way. Tehran successfully weaned Britain away from its ally, the U.S., and its EU partners, proved how alienated the British public is from the war in Iraq and the U.S. administration, managed to look more humane in prisoner treatment than the U.S. and distracted from the growing international pressure on Tehran's nuclear ambitions. That's a pretty shrewd set of moves, though it pains me to say so.
The only downside for Ahmadinejad was his ugly, stupid statement about women servicemembers. But it may go down well with the D'Souzaite masses in the Middle East. It's infuriating that this little religious nut-case is running rings around the West in p.r. But that says more about the failures of the West in this war than about the brilliance of the mullahs in Tehran.
(Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with a British sailor (left) following his press conference in Tehran, where he announced the release of the 15 British sailors, 04 April 2007. Ahmadinejad met the sailors as they were released at the presidential compound, wishing them success for the future, state television pictures showed. Amid smiles, cheerful conversations then followed between Ahmadinejad and four sailors who were filmed queuing up to shake his hand. By STR/AFP/Getty.)