Deal or no deal?

BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP Screen capture/AFP I like to think of successful diplomacy in terms of colors. Craft something “purple” enough so that one side can call it blue, while the other calls it red. I think that’s what has happened with the release of Britain’s 15 sailors and marines. Tony Blair gets to tell his constituents ...

By , a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.
602756_070405_blair_02.jpg
602756_070405_blair_02.jpg

BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP

BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP

Screen capture/AFP

I like to think of successful diplomacy in terms of colors. Craft something “purple” enough so that one side can call it blue, while the other calls it red.

I think that’s what has happened with the release of Britain’s 15 sailors and marines. Tony Blair gets to tell his constituents that he solved the problem “without any deal, without any negotiation, without any side agreement of any nature whatever,” while the Iranians can brag to theirs that they received a “letter of apology” from the United Kingdom and boast of their magnanimity in pardoning the prisoners. Both sides are denying that there was a prisoner exchange, but Scott Horton of Harper’s thinks otherwise:

Yesterday I spoke with a British diplomat who has some peripheral involvement in the current Persian Gulf crisis and asked a fairly obvious question: What were the prospects for a resolution of the current dilemma through a prisoner exchange—namely the 15 British sailors and marines seized by Tehran for the six Iranians held by U.S. forces in Iraq? The question drew a broad smile and this comment: “If everything develops as I hope it will, then about a week from today people may very well be speculating that this is what has happened. They might very well think that. Of course, government representatives would be at pains to convince them that there is no relationship between the releases, because it is the position of each of the governments involved that there can be no quid pro quo when it comes to hostages.” That’s about as close as a wiley [sic] diplomat would come to saying “yes.”

Blake Hounshell is a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.

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