Even before the U.N. voted today to sanction Iran, the Iranians were getting ready for the outcome of the vote by grabbing bargaining chips. In this case, it was British military personnel.
In case you had not heard, the Iranian Islamic Republican Guard Corps maritime unit captured 15 members of a Royal Navy and Royal Marine detachment on duty in the Shatt al Arab. Iran claims that the men in captivity have "admitted" to violating Iranian waters. The Iranians have announced that they intend to try the captured British personnel for espionage.
The Iranians claim that the British violated their waters. However, in a similar incident last year, it was clear that the British were clearly within the Iraqi territory. Does it make any sense that they would be invading Iranian territory, in the day, in rigid inflatable boats, and unsupported? Or is it more likely that the Iranians are lashing out at the world's condemnation of their nuclear program and the recent capture of five Iranian Republican Guardsmen in Iraq earlier this year by U.S. forces?
A hundred years ago, the response would have been a swift reprisal raid freeing the prisoners. In today's world, with our lack of certain terms, moral equivalence, and tolerance, the response will definitely be less swift, less certain, and probably result in appeasement.
Hopefully, the Bush administration and Blair government will not repeat the fiasco of North Korean appeasement. Or they could just treat it like they have the rest of Iran's involvement in the Iraqi civil-war.
All Iran had to worry about was a UN sanction for its nuclear program. Those have proven so effective against Iraq, Sudan (for Darfur), Angola, the Former Yugoslavia, Somalia and all the other places the UN has sanctioned.