Regarding Iran, a basketball metaphor – rebound and shoot
Wretchard of the Belmont Club suggests what Britain should do to recover its hostages. (Not too long ago, when Britain had real leaders, Britain would have known.) He writes,
. . . the British would be best served by "going ugly early" as strongly as possible without crossing the line into overt hostilities. The strategy behind such a move would be to make the Iranians work to put the ball back into diplomatic territory.
Instead, Tony Blair went running to the UN and the EU. Neither provided useful assistance, although "HMS Cornwall is the base for multinational marine security patrols in the Gulf: a mission authorized by the United Nations". This is not atypical of either organisation. We have noted their uselessness for some time. Unfortunately, as Wretchard points out,
By committing to the diplomatic game, Britain not only gave Teheran advance knowledge of what they would do, they absolutely guaranteed the availability of potential British hostages since an Embassy would have be maintained to carry out the diplomatic minuet. . .As long as Britain behaves predictably Teheran can continue to string it along and promise a solution right around the corner, until finally Her Majesty's Government is so exhausted it will agree to any humiliation to get the sailors and marines out. But as I indicated in my basketball analogy, there's still the rebound.
Britain should not forget the rebound. Now that the diplomatic basketball has rimmed out, what Britain may consider doing now is what I suggested in the first place. Take the whole thing off the diplomatic track without initiating any overt hostilities.
Whitehall should withdraw the entire British diplomatic mission from Teheran and deal with the Ayatollahs through their representatives to the United Nations; they can expel every Iranian diplomat and official from the UK. And if possible, they should convince their European partners -- for whatever they are worth -- to do the same. Make the Ayatollahs beg for a diplomatic solution. Make them ask, "what's next?" Make them beg the British to talk to them. At the minimum this will create uncertainty in Teheran. It forecloses nothing, even a return to diplomacy. And in that atmosphere of uncertainty, the naval force in the Gulf will becoming truly menacing. They should have done this from the first day, in my layman's opinion.
Wretchard is not the layman he modestly claims to be.