This is serious.
It is obvious now that this is no longer a trumped up border incident like happened in '04.
This is an act of war against the United Kingdom.
(Note that there are USN and USCG assets in the area doing exactly the same things the British were. Whether we were simply lucky or they specifically chose the UK forces is unknown)
Which begs the question, WTF is Iran thinking?
1:They are trying to take advantage of Blair's unpopularity to negotiate with a weak opponent, perhaps on power-sharing in Iraq or a security council vote regards their nuke program.
This strikes me as possible but unwise, I don't pretend to understand the Brits but they tend to rally around provocations like this act of piracy. Thatcher IIRC was not exactly at the top of the polls in 1982 when the Argentinians made a similar assessment of UK will. The Brits are known a stiff upper lip, but their upper cut is far worse.
2:This is actually an initiative by overzealous lower level officers.
This strikes me as unlikely but even if it is true this does not mean that this situation can be easily resolved...The Marco Polo Bridge incident of 1937 was instigated by several low level Japanese officers.....it rather escalated.
3:The Iranians are going for a straight swap for some of their terrorists our guys captured in Iraq.
4: The Iranians are trying to set themselves up at the leaders of the Muslim world. They don't feel the UK or its allies can do permanent harm to Iran given its defenses and geography, thus even if they are hit, they come out saving face and boosting themselves in the eyes of other radical Muslims.
5:They are inviting an attack on their own people. The Iranian people are actually quite pro-western but also very patriotic. The Mullahs may think that they can temper the first item if their people suffer a hail of JDAMs , Storm Shadows and Tomahawks.
Obviously, I have no idea....
Iran is a tough nut, they've gotten huge infusions of air defense missiles from Russia. An air raid on Iran would face far tougher air defenses that the USAF did over Hanoi (the last time a western air force was severely tested).
Iran has a large stock of anti-ship missiles and several very quiet submarines. Between that and mines, if they want to close the straits of Hormuz...the straits are closed, at least for a few weeks. Iran may have a rational goal in mind, but it is playing a game of brinkmanship with the worlds energy supplies and its economy that could easily set up a chain of events reminiscent of 1914.
If this isn't resolved in a week or so, I fear this could get very very bad.
Pajamas Media has a lengthy roundup.
Capt Ed asks questions of certain people that will not get answered.
Belmont Club has some thoughts.
UPDATE: Iran wants a swap.