L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

29 March 2007 Blog Home : March 2007 : Permalink

Timothy Garton Ash - Dead Right

This is one of those blog post titles that I thought I would never write. I was in fact dangerously close to writing that Polly Pot was right on gambling, but fortunately Tim W pointed out the errors so I was saved from that. However I don't think that even Tim will find much to complain about in Timothy GA's piece on EU reactions to Iran's seizure of RN personnel. It is worth reading the whole thing but I'll just excerpt the first and last few paras:

Last week, while the European Union celebrated 50 years of peace, freedom and solidarity, 15 Europeans were kidnapped from Iraqi territorial waters by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. As I write, those 14 European men and one European woman have been held at an undisclosed location for nearly a week, interrogated, denied consular access, but shown on Iranian television, with one of them making a staged "confession", clearly under duress. So if Europe is as it claims to be, what's it going to do about it? Where's the solidarity? Where's the action?

[...]Iran is Germany's third-largest beneficiary of export credit guarantees, outdone only by Russia and China. Iran comes second to none in terms of the proportion of German exports - in recent years up to 65% - underwritten by the German government.

The total government underwriting commitment in 2005 was €5.8bn (£3.9bn), more than for Russia or China. As the squeeze grows on Iran from UN sanctions and their knock-on effects, and as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fails to deliver on his populist economic promises, this European trade becomes ever more vital for the Iranian regime - and ever more dependent on European government guarantees to counterbalance the growing political risk.

[...]So here's a challenge for the German presidency of the European Union: will you put your money where your mouth is? Or are all your Sunday speeches about European solidarity in the cause of peace and freedom not even worth the paper they are written on?

As he points out in the middle, the Royal Navy is inspecting ships under a completely accepted UN mandate and it is seeking to embargo weapons which would seem to be something that everyone could agree is a good idea. In other words anyone who thinks that "the British had it coming" is sayng that any attempt by western powers to enforce UN resolutions by force is unacceptable. Not only that but the EU has made frequent claims that its "soft power" can achieve results that US "hard power" cannot. So far its record with Iran has been pretty dismal, this would seem to be a good opportunity to show that "soft power" has some teeth. Alternatively we can correctly assume that the EU's claims of common security and foreign policy are merely gestures.

I think you can guess which way I'm leaning.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin