Monday, April 02, 2007

15 sailors, 10,460 news items

Last night, while Al Alam and western news organizations were showing the latest confessions from the British soldiers, Iranians were watching Buster Keaton unfold a giant newspaper...

Why is Iran losing its case in international public opinion and why doesn’t the Iranian government care about this?

It is no secret that governments and corporations around the world spend millions, even billions, of $s to improve their public relations. When governments or corporations are under attack or when they see their policies or actions are not received well at the national or, as in this matter, international level, they try to present their side of the story in a compelling and coherent manner. They also seek help or guidance from the partners that they count on to come to their side in times of need. Looking at events surrounding the capture of 15 British sailors in the past 10 days proves that Iran does not care about its public image and does not know how to gain the support of the international community. Iran is speaking with too many voices and has too many different agendas. Iran will come out of this crisis the big loser.

Just a few months ago it seems that the people in the Arab world were supportive of Iran’s policies such as in the case of so-called peaceful nuclear energy and standing up to the west. Now it seems that they are increasingly nervous that Iran might provoke another war. Some guy on the BBC said about this that Iran scored an own goal. (sorry, can’t remember his name)

What Iran needs at this time is a brand new political calculation machine that can better analyze situations both tactically and strategically. If anyone knows of such a machine, there’s a market in Iran.

Why am I saying this? This morning when I got up, I went through all of the comments people left on this blog since the 15 British sailors ware captured on March 23. There is a storm of news articles and opinions about it around the world. I can see very clearly that Iranians writing inside and outside Iran take a similar approach: were the 15 sailors in Iranian waters or not, and if they were, was that right or wrong? I think this shows how black and white we Iranians tend to see international events. I bet there are incidents of foreign ships entering a nation’s territorial waters all the time: these breaches do not become international incidents because they are rationally dealt with and solved. Usually, as I wrote earlier, with a megaphone.

Here I want to give you guys a few statistics regarding a couple of issues Iran is dealing with or needs to deal with. I am hoping to prove to you that whatever Iranians had planned or not planned that the result of their actions is more damaging than the UN resolution against the country. You might say that Iran was good at taking the attention away from the UN resolution, but may have brought extra and more damaging sanctions upon itself through its actions.

Here we go:
If you search for 15 British sailors on Google News, you get 10,460 news items/articles.

Search for subject United Nations Resolution 1747 will deliver 208 hits.

Combination of United Nations Resolution 1747 + 15 British sailors will ONLY deliver 37 hits.

US + 15 British sailors delivered 7,366 hits. In the same time deployment of 21,000 new soldiers in Iraq add only 90 hits

We Iranians should look at what people are saying about us: they say that we have a tradition of taking hostages: there were the Americans taken hostage in their embassy at the start of the resolution, the British sailors that we took a few years ago, and that in the 1800s we killed the Russian ambassador when we attacked his embassy.

This is another disaster for us. It will take years for us to recover from it. It isn’t only the Iranian government that will suffer, it is the Iranian people as well. We need to stop being such losers and so short-sighted. Iranians need to see that we are losing big time in international public opinion. Our image is as important to defend as our territorial borders. Right now the world sees us as out of control. That is a very dangerous image to present to the world.

For the record, these televised confessions that the Iranian government keeps showing on its Arabic channel Al Alam are a big joke and they only serve to make us look stupid. I, like other Iranians, know of many people who were forced into making confessions for television.

People may form an opinion of us in ten minutes that it will take us decades to undo.


Anonymous said...

Although you may be right on many points, I think you should think twice before writing such things which will ease your frustration about Iran but also give amunition to those manipulative minds who wants to diminish Iran by using words like "hostage' and "abduction".
I agree that those who use these words have the control of the media, and know how to twist facts, and manipulate minds for the purpose of their own interest (national or otherwise...).

But this case is not about hostage taking. It is about the intrusion of 15 military personnel in Iranian waters, in a very sensitive and explosive region.

K said...

I hate to tell you that you are wrong about this. You are right that we live in a very "sensitive and explosive region", that is why we should be much more careful with action we are taking.

Since I was a teenager, everybody has been telling me to watch what I say because this or that is going to use it against us.

I don't think this is a hostage issue. I wrote that others are saying this about the situation and about us as Iranians. It will be a hostage issue if this keeps going on and on with no resolution.

I don't want to get into who is controlling the media, becuase we will never get there. I have heard this before, is not new and I am not going to ge in to this subject.I want us Iraian to take all responsibilities for our actions and. Basicaly we need to think first and than take any actions, not other way around. This shouln't be very hard

amir said...

i agree with you to somewhat.some actions of our goverment and even our pepole are not accepteble.we have not a free and good goverment but i think we should not let other countries ,specitially Americans and Brits ,to interference our works.they don't seeki our interset they only seek our OIL.
In this case,i think if we don't arest the violanters,this result to more violations..our Image is not important when our independance is in danger

christopher said...

amir, independence is the ability to freely choose among many options.

if iran decides to become so estranged and alienated from the world at-large that the only options remaining for alliance and trade are with syria and north korea

then that is not really independence, is it?

Anonymous said...

From reading various blogs and the BBC's Have Your Say, there seems to be a lot of people in denial about certain events.

The British marines and sailors were not in Iranian waters as far as the evidence suggests, and common sense would also tend to agree, the likely hood that they went on a sightseeing tour is nil, the strange coincidence that several iranian boats appeared from nowhere and just happend to have a camre crew on board.

The inability of the Iranian government to get its facts straight, and the hooror show of tv propaganda doesn't bask the Iranians in good light.

Not to mention under international law it is illegal to detain and capture another nations crew if they stray in there waters, your simply supposed to give warning first and escort them out.

Hopefully they'll be released soon

arthemis said...

excellent post K. it's high time that we iranians stop blaming everything on others.

Anonymous said...

"hostages", "terrorists", "moooslims", who cares. Whatever Iran does it will be painted in a negative light by english speaking media, unless of course it be becomes Saudi Arabia. You can't let others control you through name-calling. If some stupid white hicks believe them, then that's out of your hands, they don't really matter anyway, they can't control whether or not anyone goes to war.

Other than enforcing the integrity of territorial waters of Iran, this little exercise illustrates the merits of not abusing the international system, wasting diplomatic initiative, and stretching Iran's will and good faith efforts in Iraq on unlawful UN security council resolutions. I mean, even the EU is only going to pay lip service to this crises. Sometimes people need to be reminded just what their weaknesses are.

Don't get too worked up about it, Blair can't let this go on for 444 days, he's pulling the fleet out in close to half that time, sooner or later he'll pipe down and before you know it everyone will be singing a different tune.


Anonymous said...


we really don't want your oil. We don't want to invade. We don't want 'regime change'. It's just paranoia! For most people in the UK, the Middle East is a place full of bombs and intolerance and religious nutters who basically hate us. We'd be happy to leave you alone if you'd only stop doing crazy things like developing nukes, threatening to wipe out your neighbours and abducting our soldiers.

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous at 1:18,
as a persian

I'm sorry to say that you have yours facts upside down.
BBC is an Annexe of Foreign office, and if you have bloggers saying such things just post the website please.
The brits gave their coordinates, and according to those coordinates and international law, the brits where in Iranian waters.
I've already posted the website in the comments of the previous message.

And when it comes to military personnels, the national security overrides the international civil law.

Anonymous said...


You're very naive to think that other major players won't want to trade with Iran. (Especially trade in oil -- China???) This is especially true as the reputations of the US and UK continues to deteriorate. And can you imagine what would happen to the US’s reputation if we (I’m American, in case you hadn’t guessed) started yet another unjust war in the region? Perhaps Iran sees a war w/ the US as ultimately beneficial in that regard.
-Reader in San Diego, California

christopher said...

i may have exaggerated a little by limiting irans possibilities to only syria and north korea. but the point is that increased international isolation is a very real possibility.

and former iconoclastic european trade partners (ie france) are now much more in the fold of the eu than they were before. and iran-europe relations are deteriorating by the week.

and as for oil, if i'm not mistaken most of irans export sales are conducted through the mainframe of opec. so iran has to cling to opec and its member nations to realize any kind of steady revenue stream from that. which doesn't really suggest an increase in global influence.

friends are good to have. and unfortunately, the leadership in tehran (or washington) have not been making many lately.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, you have an excellent view point. To many outside of Iran, Iran is currently an out-of-control country. Increasingly, the country is seen as a cancerous tumor in the Middle East. Throughout the recent history of Iran, Mollas are known to be reactionary people. They think on their feet and decide on doing something without really thinking about the consequence. It comes from education background becuase they have never been thought to think a problem through, consider positive and negative outcomes. They think of something and go for it in the name of God. For them, publich relation and positive image means nothing. They are more concerend how to wash themselves in the toilet than what people of the world think about Iranians.

I think, in case of 15 UK sailors, Mollas and Molla-types in the government wanted to act like smart politicians and divert the public opinion from the problems they face in Iran; problems such as, Iranian teachers rioting for higher wages; the discovery that Rafsanjani's son received $300 million from the French company, Total; the incident of Shahram Jazaeri and the ongoing financial corruption within the government; and so many more internal problems.

They indeed managed to divert the public opinion from these problems, but what Mollas didn't calculate was that with this unreasonable action or reaction, they converged the world's opinion against their very existence. Iranian regime is now more than ever isolated, from within by the majority Iranians and from without by almost every peace-loving person in the world. The only support regime has at the moment is from those of rent-a-riot organizations like Baseej and Sepah Pasdaran, namely unemployed, brain-washed, Mof-khor (eat-for-free bunch) mafia who go wherever wind blows.

As an Iranian, I am just sad to see my country being a hostage of these Arabs-in-root Mollas. The sadder part is to see the coutry going backward and downward in the history.

amir said...

Iranian are moderate eoples, I don't see anyone seeking a war,no one is seeking to wipe out Isreal or invade other countries.
many people are not belive in the current goverment and regime at all(also there're many who perefer the current regime despite they don't like it!!!) many people ,like myself' even don't belive in Islam but there is a difference between country and regime. if anyone want to invade your country what do you feel?
Do you allow them to come in?
Do perifer the forigen force or your hated goverment?
it is just our situation.
we don't love our goverment but we don't let foriegn countries to interfernce too.the history show that the Others are not seek our interst at all,for example in 1953 Brits and Americans bringing back Shah insted of Mosssadeq to power which is the base for Khomaini rasing...there are many bad things which is done by brits and us in our recent history(i don'y consider other countries history) when Saddam invade us and kill our young and kinds whith chimical weopons who support him?? the answer is the West .orginally they kill our kids with chiemicall weopons. American kill non-military(kids ,old man and woeman) people of us on iran Airline planet,what was their gaulty? the US goverment don't appolgize at all they gave their navvy capitan meddal of honor
i don't support our goverment act such as showing prissoners(iranian or forginers) on the TV because it is not fair or the act of cazy Ahmadinejad but is an obviuose differnce between this think and the west propaganda against us which is so clear to every iranian even uneducated(for example see hollywood made movies like 300 which are only historical lies)
so in this case,capturing Brits acrossing iranian borders, i can not belive Blair who say they don't want to do any thing with iran insted i think they are preparing for a war and they are just testing our reaction to that

amy said...

Hi there,
I'm wondering whether you'd comment on this, please.
Listening to NRP (National Public Radion) here in the US the other day, the commentator mentioned that showing the videos of the British sailors was a mix-up of culture. He said that in Iran, showing the videos was meant to show the world and the Iranian people that the sailors were safe and sound and in good hands, but it was interpreted as being manipulative and cruel by the west. I had actually wondered about this. Was this just an honest mistake on the part of the Iranian government, are they trying to be "decent" or is this just a way to flaunt their captives and rub it in the faces of the British? I suppose it was the latter, because Iran must have heard the anger from the West in showing these images yet continues to do it.

An honest question because I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt.

Thanks much,


K said...

Dear Amy
Images shown on Iranian TV of the 15 british sailors has one and only one goal: and that is to intimidate the Briitish and to influence Arab public opinion. If they wante to show that the soldiers are well they could have let the embassy rep visit them in person. That would have done more to calm the family than showing them confessing on tv.

Perhaps it is true that the audience here does not read the images the same way as the audience in the West, but the Iranian regime knows that this is a taboo.

So far nobody outside of a chosen few know where the sailors are and nobody from the British gov has talked to them. This may change in a day or two.

Anonymous said...

Lets say for the sake of argument the Brits were in Iranian waters, not likely, but lets go with it. The Iranian response was over the top compared to how Iranian intrusions into Iraqi waters have been handled.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous 9:31 PM

No comparison possible. Iranians are not a foreign military force to the region. They have not come from 10000km of the Persian gulf.

Anonymous said...

Alas dear Persians, the middle east is important to the West only because it has oil. "Your oil" comes out of the ground only because the West showed you how to do it. Without oil, all of the Middle East would be like Somalia. Taking hostages, absuing women, sectarian fighting and religious intolerance: Oh, how I wish the West did not need the oil and did not have to deal with people who dropped out of civilization in the middle ages.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous westerner,
I see that you are upset that they have been released.
And what's the result of having showed the universe the oil you smart arse, you're gonna burn like in hell thanks to your own action:GLOBAL WARMING

Brian said...

I can see that I am living in the wrong era. Probably even on the wrong planet. I have a simplistic and, no doubt in the eyes of other contributors to this blog, stupid approach. Summed up in one question - why the hell can we not live in peace. No prizes for getting the right answer.

ET said...

Brian, I have no idea why you would think that we (the editors of this blog) would find your question "Why can't we live together in peace" stupid? After all, the two of us *do* live together in peace (well, relative peace ;-) ) Despite our cultural differences and religious differences and political differences.

And to anon westerner, while I hate to engage in cultural relativism, I am amazed at how dismissive we are of the peoples of the middle east just because they are late to the transition from agrarian to urban society.

But that is a different post altogehter.