Corridors of Power: Hero at No. 10, Taliban Murder, and Spain’s Past

Editor's Note: Corridor's of Power is written by veteran foreign correspondent RolandFlamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here tobrowse past installments of the column.

TONY'S BOY SAVES DAY -- The fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, emerged as the key figure in resolving the standoff with Iran over the 15 captured British sailors and Marines sends the message that it was Downing Street and not the Foreign Office that succeeded in resolving the crisis. The British government has kept mum about how its diplomatic offensive developed but, according to British press reports, it was Sheinwald who pressed his counterpart in Syria, Iran's ally, to intercede with the ayatollahs in Tehran; and it was Sheinwald who had the apparently decisive phone conversation with Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran's national security council, that led to the sailors' release.

The focus on Sheinwald may well be how it went, but it also happens to reflect a prevailing skepticism in London about Margaret Beckett's performance as the new foreign secretary. The London Times actually reported that Blair's man was entrusted with the job because Beckett "lacks credibility as foreign secretary." Throughout the affair Beckett was hardly visible -- at least in public -- leaving Blair to do the heavy lifting. When she popped up to warn people against being too optimistic about the sailors' release despite the Iranian announcement, they were already on their way home.

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