Americans are elated that five U.S. citizens held captive in Iran have been freed–but also worry about the steep cost.
The deal is, first of all, typically lopsided. In exchange for five Americans–who were likely innocent of much of all charges–Iran will secure the release of seven guilty Iranians, plus charges dropped against 14 others who violated international sanctions and whom the U.S. wanted extradited. Two Americans still remain behind in Iran.
Worse, It is clear that Iran used its American prisoners as a bargaining chip–first to ensure that the U.S. dropped sanctions as the Iran nuclear deal went through; second, to expand its ballistic missile program in violation of the U.N. resolution giving effect to that deal; and third, to humiliate the U.S., most recently in the arrest of ten sailors.
We now know that the reason the Obama administration dropped plans for new sanctions against Iran in late December–sanctions that had been triggered by Iran’s forbidden launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles–after the Iranian regime threatened to cancel the prisoner swap.
Essentially, for the price of five Americans, Iran gained the ability to threaten millions of people with missiles that will one day carry the nuclear warheads the Iran deal enables the regime to develop–legally–once it expires.
Most likely, the Obama administration also declined to admit Iran had violated the Geneva Convention rights of captive U.S. Navy sailors last week for the same reason.
The Obama administration is celebrating the exchange as a confirmation of its foreign policy. The Washington Post, overjoyed at the return of its reporter, Jason Rezaian, agrees, saying that the U.S. and Iran had “moved into a new era of international relations.” Perhaps–not friendship, but rather a new balance in which Iran holds the upper hand.