- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2007

Happy Easter in Iran

The radical Muslim rulers of Iran “had a happy Easter,” after exposing the weakness of Britain and the rest of the world by detaining British sailors and marines and then releasing them, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said.

The straight-talking John R. Bolton spared no one in his scathing analysis of the crisis in an opinion piece published yesterday in the Financial Times of London. Britain, the United Nations and the European Union were damaged politically by the 13-day drama by passing timid statements, while the United States did nothing, he said.

“The only thing risen from this crisis is Iranian determination and resolve to confront us elsewhere, at their discretion, whether on Iraq, nuclear weapons or terrorism,” Mr. Bolton said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the “puppet master throughout, taunting and admonishing” Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bolton said. The Iranian leader falsely claimed the British sailors and marines were inside Iranian waters, made his captives publicly apologize for trespassing and mockingly urged Mr. Blair not to prosecute them for straying into Iranian territory. Satellite photos clearly showed the British were on routine patrol inside Iraqi waters in the Persian Gulf when Iranian gunboats surrounded their small craft.

“The debacle, from its murky start in the Gulf to its end on a Tehran television stage, must be seen in the larger context of Iran’s efforts to project power in the Middle East and beyond,” Mr. Bolton said.

Britain’s response will convince Iran and “other rogue states and terrorists that hostage-taking throws Britain into a state of confusion, not a state of resolve,” he wrote.

“The wider world’s response was no better,” Mr. Bolton added. “The United Nations and the European Union contributed their usual level of determination — precious little — and the U.S. was silent, at Britain’s request.”

He warned that the Iranians will take advantage of the world’s reaction.

“Iran, sensing weakness, has every incentive to ratchet up its nuclear weapons program, increase its support to Hamas, Hezbollah and others and perpetrate even more serious terrorism in Iraq,” he said.

Visit in Vietnam

A top U.S. diplomat demonstrated Washington’s displeasure with Vietnam’s repression of religious liberty with a visit yesterday to a dissident Buddhist monk under house arrest in a pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City.

Eric John, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was accompanied by Seth Winnick, the U.S. consul general in the city once known as Saigon, when they held a two-hour talk with Thich Quang Do, deputy leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

The Buddhist leader called on President Bush “to take a firm stand for religious freedom, human rights and democracy in Vietnam,” a Paris-based spokesman for the church told Agence France-Presse.

Lantern of friendship

The Japanese ambassador proclaimed the lighting of a stone lantern made 355 years ago in Japan a symbol of the enduring relationship between the United States and Japan.

The lantern lighting Sunday night at the Tidal Basin was one of the highlights of the ongoing Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates the donation of cherry trees in 1912 by Tokyo Mayor Yuko Ozaki, whose daughter, Yukika Sohma, and granddaughter, Fujiko Hara, attended the ceremony.

“This festival increases the mutual understanding between Japan and the United States every year,” Ambassador Ryozo Kato said. “Even when war broke out, the cherry trees still blossomed. Perhaps this was a reminder that so, too, would our friendship someday.

“Today our two countries are the closest of allies and friends. Every time we light this lantern during the Cherry Blossom Festival, it burns in friendship and understanding.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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