COMMENTS: Breast Cancer Edges Out British Sailors

Cancer has been such a hot-button topic this past week that a routine report from the American Cancer Society was propelled to headline status. Both CBS and NBC led with revised screening guidelines for those women at the highest risk of breast cancer and it was Story of the Day. ABC, by contrast, chose escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, as the stand-off between Britain and Iran intensified.

Teheran grabbed attention with exclusive news video from al-Alam TV showing the 15 British sailors and marines who were taken prisoner last week from the waters south of the Shaat al-Arab. All three networks showed Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the sole female sailor among the 15, and her English language soundbite: "Obviously we trespassed into their waters."

All three covered the controversy from London. Prime Minister Tony Blair ridiculed Iran's claim that his sailors were in Iranian waters when they were captured. He told the House of Commons that at first Iran had claimed a location that was in Iraqi waters and therefore no violation: "After this was pointed out to them, they subsequently gave a different set of coordinates." NBC's Jim Maceda saw Britain "hardening its position" with a "diplomatic freeze with Iran" and ABC's Jim Sciutto (subscription required) heard Blair "ratchet up the pressure," while observing that "Britain has few good options." Meanwhile CBS' Elizabeth Palmer called it "territorial confusion" and quoted a "conciliatory statement" from Iranian diplomats, saying that "close contact and cooperation could resolve the dispute."

In Washington, CBS' David Martin sat down with former spy Don Riedel now at the Brookings Institution to get his predictions about how the Iran-Britain stand-off will play out. The onetime CIAer called Iran "much more tough and vigorous" and envisaged another hostage crisis, 1979-style. Riedel paraphrased Teheran's message: "Don't mess around with us because we can mess around with you. You are very, very vulnerable in Iraq these days."

ABC's White House correspondent Martha Raddatz continued her tour of the Persian Gulf region. She filed Exclusive video from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower on naval maneuvers in what she argumentatively called "the Arabian Gulf." Both ABC and NBC mentioned the Arab Summit convened by Saudi Arabia in passing. No network sent a reporter to cover the deliberations.


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