It was a minor incident, barely a footnote in the long, troubled history between two long-standing foes. But in the hours before its denouement, conservative politicians and commentators, as well as the usual coterie of Iran hawks, sought desperately to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Iran toys with U.S. days before we pay them, ridiculously, billions of dollars. Don't release money. We want our hostages back NOW!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2016
If our sailors aren’t coming home yet, they need to be now. No more bargaining. Obama’s humiliatingly weak Iran policy is exposed again.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) January 12, 2016
Opponents of the deal forged last year between Iran and world powers over Tehran's nuclear program figured that the boat incident was enough provocation to scupper many months of diplomatic negotiations and generally invoked it as a sign of White House fecklessness.
Hey Iran, you have exactly 300 days left to push a US president around. Enjoy it while you can. After that, there will be hell to pay.— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 12, 2016
And others, such as this former British member of Parliament, didn't disguise their desire to bomb Iran.
To be sure, Iran has a lot to answer for regarding its unjust detention of foreigners, including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been in Iranian custody for more than 500 days.
But as PostEverything's Dan Drezner observes, the speed with which this potential flash point was resolved actually marked a departure from the past.
In 2007, 15 British marines were picked up in a similar context and detained for nearly two weeks before being returned. This time, the existing back channels with Tehran, a consequence of concerted diplomatic efforts in recent years, helped smooth over what could have been a far greater crisis.
"Compared to a similar incident in 2007, this was handled much more quickly and with a minimum of fuss," Drezner writes. "It’s almost as if U.S. diplomacy toward Iran has yielded some benefits or something."
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