Tim Montgomerie writes:
At the start of this year I hoped (without much expectation) that 2007 would see a revival of American power. I based my hope on my belief that problems are more easily solved when the world's less desirable regimes feared US power. After Iraq had been liberated we saw a succession of improvements to the world order. Libya disarmed. Syria was humiliated in Lebanon. Pakistan's clandestine nuclear secrets programme was exposed. Since then - in rough proportion to the White House's unwillingness to abandon Donald Rumsfeld's disastrous light footprint doctrine - we have seen American authority decline and the world's despots reassert themselves. The 18DoughtyStreet.com video at the foot of this post summarises my message.
The capture last week of fifteen Royal Navy personnel by Iran was clearly premeditated and, legally, could be interpretated as an act of war. We should not be in any doubt as to why this has happened. Iran thinks we are weak. They have seen us promise sanctions on many occasions during the protacted negotiations with them over their nuclear programme and fail to act on as many occasions. They see British troops withdrawing from Basra even though their work is far from finished. Tehran has calculated that Britain does not have the stomach to stand up to Iran. What is clear is that Britain and the west still have options at the moment. Tehran is a conventional power. Once it becomes a nuclear power that range of options becomes a lot narrower.