Trading for Iranian Hostages; Dealing with the Mullahs Is a Mistake

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 14, 2009 | Go to article overview

Trading for Iranian Hostages; Dealing with the Mullahs Is a Mistake


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

We hope President Obama hasn't agreed to a quid pro quo to secure the release of hostages in Iran, but the evidence doesn't look good.

On July 9, the United States released five members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps captured in Irbil, Iraq, in January 2007. The five were suspected of coordinating Iranian financial and materiel support for insurgents in Iraq, part of the ongoing shadow war being prosecuted against the United States by Tehran that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Americans.

The State Department maintains that the Iranians were released at the request of the Iraqi government, but some reports suggest the move was part of a quid pro quo deal for U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi, who was arrested in Tehran in February and released on May 11.

We had feared such a deal was in the works. On April 22, we noted in these pages that the Iranian government is maneuvering to trade Ms. Saberi's freedom for that of five Revolutionary Guards captured by U.S. forces while training insurgents in Iraq.

The same day that Iran's chief judge, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, ordered a quick and fair appeal for Ms. Saberi, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz and called for the immediate release of the Irbil Five. This was a clear diplomatic signal of a potential deal.

There is a whiff of arms for hostages in the air. It would be a mistake to reprise that failed attempt by the Reagan administration to curry favor with Iran in the mid-1980s by sending weapons in hopes Tehran would release U.S. hostages held by Iranian proxies in Lebanon.

The opening did not improve U.S.-Iranian relations, and President Reagan later admitted it was a mistake. In 1987, E.J. Dionne, writing in the New York Times, quoted then-Sen. Joseph R. …

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