Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fleet Street Is All at Sea over Iran's Hostages; MEDIA

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fleet Street Is All at Sea over Iran's Hostages; MEDIA

Article excerpt

A FOREIGN country captures 15 members of the British armed forces and then parades them on TV, having persuaded them to make public confessions of guilt.

So who is to blame for this embarrassing incident? Iran, of course, and it's hardly surprising that the Britishbased media have assumed that to be so. I'll come back to that assumption in a moment.

First though, it's instructive to note that newspapers have concentrated a great deal of their fire in recent days on other homegrown culprits, notably Tony Blair and his Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

The attacks on the Government have taken different forms but the insistent underlying message is the same none of this would have happened if Mr Blair had not prosecuted the Iraqi war in the first place.

The Mail on Sunday's columnist Peter Hitchens articulated it best: "Anthony Blair's liberal war on Iraq has turned that country into a lake of blood, heated by unleashed sectarian hatred that had been silent for decades until we intervened on false pretences." This view of Blair's culpability was echoed in several leading articles.

Having got us into the mire, there was also a belief that Blair was not the man to extricate us from it.

The Sunday Telegraph referred to "Blair's dismal foreign policy record", which "means that Britain has very few options". Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times was scathing about the Prime Minister's diplomatic skills, claiming that his "foreign policy has replaced Labour bleeding-heart syndrome with tabloid bleedinghead syndrome".

Nor was the criticism confined to what are regarded as Right-wing papers. One of those tablet-of-stone Independent front pages called it a "war of humiliation. The humiliation of Britain, the humiliation of Tony Blair, of the British military, of George Bush and the whole Iraqi shooting match".

Much of the journalistic handwringing, though directed at Blair, was a recognition of impotence and a conclusion that, to quote a Sunday Telegraph headline notable for its mix of fact and opinion, that Iran's defiance "makes Britain look a waning world power".

The reaction to the incident recalls the kind of gunboat diplomacy employed by Palmerston during the Don Pacifico incident in 1850. …

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