When in November five British yachtsman were apprehended by the Iranian authorities after trespassing in Iranian waters, the bought and paid-for media scrambled in readiness for another orgy of Tehran-bashing.
Yet something very odd happened – or failed to happen. The British bulldog defied all expectations and failed to bark. Indeed the BBC reported that for the best part of a week the Foreign Office had tried to keep the whole business under wraps. When it did finally come to light, Miliband just shuffled his feet whilst the FO spokesman mumbled that, okay, the five might have “strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters”.
The Iranians quietly dealt with the situation caused by the yachtsmen’s gaffe, initially promising that serious measures would be taken were the five proven to have acted with “evil intentions”. When due investigation suggested that such was not the case, the strays were promptly sent home. All the lads declared themselves to have been well treated, with the mother of one of them offering “grateful thanks to Iran for seeing it as it was – just a human error”. The hot story suddenly went cold and the press slunk off.
So where were the headlines screaming about the “unjust treatment” suffered by “our boys”? Where were the maritime maps “proving” that the trespass “never really happened”? Where, in short, was all the ballyhoo raised on at least two previous occasions, in 2004 and 2007, when British servicemen got themselves arrested on Iranian territory? How are we to account for this outbreak of grudging civility on the part of the neo-colonialists of Whitehall?
To get a glimpse of what is really weighing on British imperialist minds, we can do no better than to listen to Miliband’s crass denials of the significance of this affair. “This is a human story of five young yachtsmen,” he wittered. “It’s got nothing to do with politics, it’s got nothing to do with nuclear enrichment programmes… it has no relationship to any of the other, bigger issues.” Oh really?
Such denials serve only to draw attention to those “bigger issues” which they would conceal. What has for the moment brought imperialist arrogance and aggression up short is precisely the firm and statesmanlike fashion in which Tehran has successively seen off the foreign efforts to undermine Iran’s elections, the subsequent efforts to overturn the results by funding yet another “colour revolution”, and the most recent grandstanding at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Security Council over the non-existent “nuclear issue”. (The only “nuclear issue” involved is the unpardonable interference of Washington, London and Tel Aviv in the entirely proper efforts by the Tehran government to develop a nuclear energy programme consistent with its need for national energy security.)
It is this firm defence of Iran’s national independence in the face of imperialist meddling which has taught Miliband manners. The same thing also accounts for the failure of the bourgeois scribblers and Twitterers to make very much of the opposition’s attempts to hijack Students Day on 7th December.
After a couple of days of speculation about “thousands” clashing with the police, backed up with some bile from Mousavi’s website, the imperialist press gave up on the story as a non-starter. Perhaps they figured that the real anti-imperialist significance of Students Day – the commemoration of the slaughter of three patriotic students protesting at Nixon’s visit to the Shah shortly after the overthrow of Mossadeq – was not a theme they should invite people to think too much about. Iran’s official news agency IRNA aptly summed up this damp squib as the “last nail in the coffin” of the post-election protests.
As Washington and London continue to pile pressure on the UN to intensify the economic war against Iran, on the pretext of her supposed nuclear transgressions, Iran has shown herself unbowed. Faced with the latest diplomatic provocation – an IAEA resolution denying Iran’s right to enrich uranium and rebuking her for not giving advance notice of the enrichment plant at Qom – Tehran has responded with characteristic vigour. Ahmadinejad has declared the resolution illegal, and his vice-president has ordered the construction of ten new nuclear plants, explaining that “We had no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz site, but apparently the West doesn’t want to understand Iran’s peaceful message.” Having thus removed any further excuse to criticise Iran over the “secrecy” of her nuclear energy plans, Ahmadinejad is spelling out in terms that even the dimmest diplomat can grasp. As Al Jazeera reported him saying, “The Zionist regime … and its … backers cannot do a damn thing to stop Iran’s nuclear work” (3 December 2009).
Such determination in the face of provocation stands as an example for all independent nations resisting imperialist domination and, more than anything else could, strengthens the prospects for peace in the region.