Today's Blogs

Mahmoud the Magnanimous

Bloggers are all over Iran’s announced release of the British captives, and McCain’s description of daily life in Baghdad under the surge.

Mahmoud the Magnanimous: In freeing the 15 detained sailors and marines as a “gift” to Britain, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad staged what many believe was his greatest PR coup yet Wednesday. Before meeting with detainees, who said they had been treated well and were sorry for violating Iranian territory, Ahmadinejad cheered the “courage” of the Iranian coast guard and got in one final accusation of trespassing. What’s Farsi for chutzpah? most bloggers ask.

Military and technology blogger Noah Shachtman at Wired’s Danger Room writes: “Of course, the Iranian government was sounding a whole lot more belligerent, just days ago … [D]oesn’t it show … that tough, hard-headed negotiations with Iran can work? It seems to me that there’s a lesson in today’s news, as we start to tackle the really big issue – Tehran’s nuclear program. Maybe bombing first and asking questions later isn’t the way to go.” Liberal Matt Yglesias sees a victory for doves. At the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, he argues: “[T]he fact that the crisis arose in the first place illustrates the continuing dangers posed by the Bush administration’s policies of confrontation. Even if the administration isn’t deliberately seeking war - and its behavior in this matter indicates that it isn’t - the continued attempts to strong-arm Iran and its allies in the region pose a constant risk of misunderstandings and miscalculations.”

Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters hates to see the Iranian president come out looking like a partner in peace: “Ahmadinejad makes the most out of the reversal. Facing the threat of a blockade if Iran pressed this any further, he gets to look magnanimous while still maintaining the notion that he could have tried the sailors for espionage, even while dressed in uniform. It’s a net win, allowing the Iranians to feel as though they won a tactical victory while avoiding having to back up their rhetoric with action.” But former U.S. Marine Westhawk disagrees: “What did Iran gain from this incident? With respect to Iran’s external relations, we can’t find much positive for Iran. All military and police personnel that operate near Iran’s borders (on both sides of that border) will now do so with a much higher level of vigilance and armament. Their rules of engagement will also likely get an upgrade to ‘shoot first, ask questions later’. The probability of real shooting on or over Iran’s border has gone up.”

Claudia Rosett, the journalist who broke the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, further elucidates the sailors’ “crimes” by posting a map on her blog The Rosett Report that shows the route Saddam-era oil smugglers used: “The 15 British hostages now held by Iran were patrolling near Iranian waters in an attempt to stop the current smuggling of Iraqi oil. And although the evidence shows that British patrols have NOT been violating Iran’s territorial waters, the chart above is enough to suggest that in a saner world, they really should — with the full help and blessing of the international community.”

Righty Allahpundit at Hot Air suggests that the hitherto silent Ahmadinejad’s announcement of the end of the affair was a “face-saving gesture” on the part of the mullahs: “You may remember the Times of London claimed a few days ago that the hardliners themselves were split, with the head of the Revolutionary Guard advocating that the sailors be freed. Sounds like ‘Mahdi’ and his crew lost the debate but Khamenei threw him a bone by letting him look powerful and magnanimous by framing the release as a presidential pardon. The fact that it’s a pardon also assumes that a crime was committed, of course, which is another face-saving gesture.”

Read more about the British sailors’ release.

McCain’s folly: Sen. John McCain’s recent tour of a Baghdad marketplace, which culminated with his effusive praise for improved security conditions in the Iraqi capital, has got many—in Baghdad and in cyberspace—fuming about the conspicuous absence of body armor, armed guards, and aerial gunship cover for the average Baghdadi merchant.

Politix at lefty TheScreamBlog minutes: “[W]hat was really absurd, as everyone knows at this point, is that McCain traveled with 100 heavily armed soldiers, attack helicopters circling overhead. So yeah, the world’s a safer place when you have your own mobile Green Zone. Every foot he walked in Baghdad (wearing a bullet proof vest) probably cost Americans $10,000 for security. Or more. If you need that much security, and a bullet proof vest, then things probably aren’t going so well where you are.”

Noting that the senator and Rep. Mike Pence (his co-traveler) made high-value targets for jihadists, and that 21 Iraqi market workers were hunted and killed on the same day as their visit, Passport, the blog of Foreign Policy, says: “It may be true that security in the market had moderately improved since January, but, sadly, McCain and Pence have now turned it into a high value target. How sad.”

Sean Aqui at Midtopia, a “vision of how the world would be if the moderate middle prevailed,” writes: “The surge seems to be producing some good results, though much of it is from such heavy-handed measures as barring car and truck traffic from busy streets to prevent car bombings. But McCain’s assertions go so far beyond the bounds of what might be considered reality that you have to wonder just how firm is his grasp on that reality.”

Read more about McCain’s Baghdad visit.