Britain counsels caution

first_imgLONDON – A boy’s question cut to the chase. “My family lives in Iran and I’m worried that you might invade my home country,” the 10-year-old told Prime Minister Tony Blair’s likely successor. The reply was that Britain is seeking a diplomatic solution – for now. As the crisis over Iran’s capture of 15 sailors deepens, Britain faces fresh criticism at home over its military presence in the Persian Gulf and anger over failed efforts to free the crew. Few fear an invasion like that in Iraq, but many worry any military operation – however small – could end in bloodshed and upset plans for a British troop withdrawal from the region. Britain has been pummeled by fierce protests since it became America’s strongest ally in the war in Iraq, sentiment that has weakened Blair’s government and caused his Labour Party to lose a significant number of Parliament seats in 2005 elections. Iran released a second letter Thursday, also attributed to Turney, who asked whether it wasn’t time for Britain to withdraw its troops from Iraq. In Plymouth, where her ship is based, readers vented their frustration and fears. “It’s time to show how tough we can be and let’s pull troops out of Iraq – a war which isn’t going far – and into Iran and let’s fight a war that has meaning,” a reader identified as Peter Wilkes wrote to the Plymouth Herald. Some pointed to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon after two Israeli soldiers were captured by Hezbollah guerrillas last summer. Others said the Americans would have taken tougher action. “Show some backbone, Blair, just like the Iron Lady!” a reader identified as Dan wrote, referring to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Britain’s popular tabloid, the Daily Mail, printed a column on its front page that read: “A British mother paraded on state TV. Forced to wear the hijab. Made to praise her Iranian kidnappers. And the response from our mighty Foreign Office? This is unacceptable, they squeaked.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Most Britons have rallied behind the captured crew – some even want the government to attempt a rescue – but others say they can’t stomach the possibility of another Middle East conflict. “We want a resolution of the particular problems we’ve got at the moment where some of our British troops are being held in Tehran,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown told his young questioner on a Channel Five News forum. “And I think the Iranian government should want that solution as well. And let’s hope we can get a peaceful solution to this. Everybody wants to live in peace.” The crisis began last Friday when armed Iranian forces detained the British naval crew near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which forms the border between Iran and Iraq. Tempers flared in newspaper editorials, on radio talk shows and online forums once Iran broadcast video of the British crew – including footage focusing on the lone female sailor, 26-year-old Faye Turney, a blond mother of a toddler named Molly. Iranian television aired pictures of her wearing a head scarf and offering soft-spoken words on how her crew allegedly entered Iranian waters; Tehran also issued a letter attributed to Turney saying she was sorry they had done so. The British government suggested she may have been forced to make the statement. last_img read more