Iran Takes More U.S. Hostages, Wants More Ransom Money

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani answers a question during press conference in New York on September 26, 2014. Rouhani said Friday that talks with international powers on Tehran's nuclear program must move forward more quickly, saying limited progress had been made in recent days.

Iran’s state-controlled media are talking up the possibility of extorting “many billions of dollars” in further ransom payments from the United States, and they have been stocking up on American hostages to get the money.

Congressional sources say “officials across the spectrum in Iran” are talking about squeezing at least another $2 billion from the United States, “alongside chatter about the U.S. hostages.”

“We’re currently conducting conversations and various dialogues in order to return this money to Iran. Perhaps these dialogues can be still conducted simultaneously on parallel tracks while we’re conducting those same conversations in order to free the sums of money that are still owed to us,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – the great “moderate” hope for Iran’s future, according to the Obama Administration – said in an interview last month, right around the time the U.S. House of Representatives was passing a bill to outlaw ransom payments to Iran and President Obama was threatening to veto it.

Much of the hostage talk currently revolves around Iranian-American father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, who were convicted of “cooperating with Iran’s enemies” and sentenced to ten years in prison, along with a $4.8 million fine, according to Iranian media on Tuesday.

“Siamak Namazi was arrested nearly a year ago and became the first US citizen reported to have been detained in the country since the announcement of the Iranian nuclear program deal,” CNN observed.

Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF representative and Iranian provincial governor, is an 80-year-old man with a heart condition. According to Reuters, the charges against him specifically included “cooperating with the U.S. government.”

“My father has been handed practically a death sentence,” said another of his sons, Babak Namazi, after news of the 10-year prison sentence broke.

Just to hammer the ransom idea home, Reuters notes that Iranian media accompanied news of the Namazi prison sentences with “video images of Siamak, set to dramatic music and spliced together with images of U.S. President Barack Obama and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was released from an Iranian jail in January after more than 18 months in detention.”

CBS News notes that U.S. permanent resident Nizar Zakka, originally from Lebanon, was also given a ten-year prison sentence recently. Zakka is an advocate for Internet freedom whose non-profit organization Arab ICT has worked for the U.S. government.

The UK Guardian recalls that he fell into Iran’s clutches after he was “invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development.”

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) named three other dual nationals – Farhad Abd Saleh, Kamran Qaderi, and Alireza Omidvar – who have been sentenced to ten years in prison for “spying and cooperating with the U.S. government against Iran.”

“The sentencing of Siamak and Baquer Namazi to ten-year prison terms is a gross injustice that should deeply embarrass the Iranian government. We urge Iran to immediately release the Namazis – as well as all dual nationals unjustly detained in Iran on spurious charges – so that they can reunite with their families,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi on Wednesday.

“Both Siamak and Baquer Namazi have been denied basic due process and all indications are that the Iranian government has been using them as political pawns in violation of its own laws and basic human decency,” said Parsi, adding:

Siamak dedicated significant portions of life to helping the people of Iran. For instance, he conducted a study on how sanctions were fueling medical supply shortages in Iran. Baquer is a dedicated humanitarian who spent his career working for UNICEF, and now suffers from medical conditions that could worsen during imprisonment. His imprisonment appears solely intended as an effort to break Siamak’s refusal to confess to bogus charges.

These hostage shenanigans are a big part of Iran’s long-running “hardliners versus moderates” kabuki theater, in which gullible Obama administration officials comply with various demands made by good-cop Rouhani because they fear bad-cop hardliners will oust him and take over Tehran if they do not prop him up. Apparently, “moderation” in Iran means taking only a few American hostages at a time and keeping ransom demands to $2 billion, give or take a billion.

“In a 2013 visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, his first as president, Rouhani told an enthusiastic crowd of Iranian-Americans that his government would make it easier for them to visit Iran. He has criticized his hardline opponents, saying they sought their own interests, not those of the Iranian people,” Reuters says of the Iranian president.


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