www. kentimmerman.com Reprinted from NewsMax.com
USS Nimitz Forced Iran's Decision
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
-- The announcement Wednesday by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
that his government would release the 15 captured British sailors and
marines came after an intense and often bitter internal debate, sources
in Tehran told NewsMax.
The capture of the British
naval inspection team was clearly a coordinated effort by the Iranian
government aimed at demonstrating Iran's ability to confront the
U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq and to divert international
attention from the nuclear showdown. The decision to release the
hostages showed the limits of Iran's power and the fears of some
leaders that too much provocation could backfire.
Within four days of their
capture on March 23, the 15 Britons were split up into smaller groups
and held in different areas, Iranian sources told NewsMax. This was a
lesson learned from the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, when all 55 U.S.
hostages were initially kept in one place.
That crisis, which occurred
during the Jimmy Carter administration, prompted a U.S. attempt to
rescue the hostages by force. After that attempt failed at Desert One
in April 1980, the Iranians split up the U.S. hostages so it would be
more difficult to rescue them.
At one point during the current
hostage crisis, the British team was split up into five groups of
three, with each group kept at a different military base. The Iranians
would then bring several groups together and film them, to give the
impression they were being held together.
The order to capture the
British sailors and marines was given by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei himself, NewsMax sources believe.
Khamenei's top advisers argued
that by striking out against a U.S. ally in Iraq, they would be sending
a message to other European nations to step back from supporting the
U.S. strategy of increasing pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
They saw the move as a clear test of Western resolve.
But as Britain refused to apologize
for the behavior of its boarding party, continuing to insist that they
were operating in Iraqi waters – not inside Iran's territorial waters,
as Tehran alleged – some of Khamenei's advisers began to have second
Adding to those doubts were
reports that the USS Nimitz was steaming toward the Persian Gulf –
making it the third Carrier Strike Group in the area.
The Nimitz is expected to join
the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS John C. Stennis, both
currently in the Persian Gulf, in the coming weeks.
On Friday, March 30, Khamenei's
top advisers met in an emergency session of the Supreme Council on
National Security, chaired by Ali Larijani. Larijani is the regime's
top nuclear negotiator, and is a confidant of the Supreme Leader, while
maintaining close ties to President Ahmadinejad.
At that meeting, Revolutionary
Guards commander Maj. Gen. Rahim Safavi reported that the deployment of
the Nimitz suggested that a U.S. military invasion of Iran was being
prepared for early May. He urged the Council to order the release of
the British hostages as a gesture to defuse the tension in the region.
The next day, however, the head
of the Political and Cultural bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, Dr.
Yadollah Javani, called Safavi a "traitor" for proposing the release of
While this internal dispute
raged, Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers in charge of guarding
the hostages continued intense debriefings, aimed at eliciting
"confessions" from the British captives that were aired on Iranian
The intention was to build a
legal "case" against the captives and haul them before a Revolutionary
court. During the trial, the regime intended to use forced
"confessions" from some of the hostages who alleged they had personal
knowledge of British government support for Iranian separatist groups
operating in Arab-dominated Khuzestan along the Iraqi border and in
Sistan-Balouchestan province, next to Pakistan.
The first inkling that the
faction urging release of the hostages was winning appeared on Tuesday
evening, when the influential Baztab Web site, run by former
Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Mohsen Rezai, reported that the
British captives would soon be released.
"It can now be said that the
politicians who are for continuing relations with London have got the
upper hand," Baztab reported. Fars News Agency also reported on Tuesday
that a prominent cleric, Hojatt-ol eslam Ghorbanali Najafabadi, was
urging the public prosecutor not to pursue a legal case against the
British sailors, but to solve the hostage crisis "through international
For now, Tehran's leaders have backed down. Why? My bets are on the Nimitz.
Unless Iran already has nuclear
warheads, a direct military confrontation with the United States would
most likely provoke a popular uprising against the regime. And
retaining power is the one thing that Ayatollah Khamenei and his
clerical cohorts actually care about.
© NewsMax 2007. All rights reserved.