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Mr. President: Seriously?
“Five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” said American president Joe Biden last Monday. The statement came after a swap deal that led to the release of five American hostages held in Iran for years in exchange for five Iranians held in the US. The five Iranians held in America were charged with different offenses; espionage, violation of sanctions against the regime in Iran and illegally buying Canadian equipment for nuclear use for the Iranian endeavors to build its nuclear program.
For any sane person, the deal is as follows: America managed the release of five American hostages for five Iranian prisoners plus 6 billion US dollars. By doing a little math; this is the highest ransom ever paid throughout history. 1.2 billion dollars were paid for each hostage! Indeed they were hostages. They did not receive a fair trial in a rigged theological judicial system. In addition, their families were not allowed to leave Iran throughout their family members ordeal. They were, technically, held hostages too.
Observers of the “understandings” between Iran and the Biden administration can’t help but notice a pattern of policies. Policies of behind-the-doors diplomacy which resulted in the relative calm on the Iraqi arena which is controlled by pro-Iranian militias and government. American troops were rotated freely last month all over Iraq for weeks in front of the armed militias who vowed to fight the American presence in the country. Hizbulla (Iraqi branch), Nojaba’ movement, and the Assa’ib Alhaq did not fire a single shot at the American troops nor did they launch their usual Katyusha missiles against the American embassy in Baghdad. Such a peaceful truce was part of the hostage deal struck last week.
One must conclude that the “understandings” between Tehran and Washington is extremely complex, multi-lateral and multi-faceted. The process is reflected in truces on some fronts, hostage-taking, hostage-releasing, ransom payments and victims on both sides. One of the prices paid for the continuation of these understandings was the former special American envoy to Iran Rober Malley. Malley was stripped from his security clearance last April and disappeared from the political scene in Washington. The Washington Post likened his disappearance with that of the Chinese foreign Minister Qin Gang. A bit of an exaggeration, but a manifestation of how deep and uncanny the understandings are between the Iranians and the Americans. Malley was responsible for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between the 5+ and Iran. The deal was abrogated by former president Donald Trump in 2018.
In an effort to justify the American hostages’ deal, top US presidential aids said that strict and constant surveillance of the Qatari account in which the 6 billion dollars ransom was transferred will forbid Iran from using the money for anything but food, medicine and humanitarian needs. One can only imagine Iranian negotiators laughing through their teeth as they were listening to this nonsense. Iranians have a long experience of dogging and avoiding sanctions. In fact, they have a huge lung through which they can breathe financially comfortably; namely, Iraq. This monetary respiration via Iraqi banks can only be facilitated by American approval. Hence, no attacks on the American troops nor at the American embassy in Baghdad.
The American hostages’ deal was “a slap in the face of the people of Iran”, said Hadi Ghaemi- executive director at the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The ransom deal came two days after the first anniversary of the murder of the 22 year old Mahsa Amini by clergy police for not wearing a hijab “properly”. Her murder sparked a nationwide rebellion in Iran resulting in hundreds killed and 20 thousand detained, according to UN sources.
Furthering his efforts to calm the storm against the hostage deal, president Biden said: “Still too many (Americans) remain unjustly held in Russia, Venezuela, Syria, and elsewhere around the world. We remain unflinching in our efforts to keep faith with them and their families – and we will not stop working until we bring home every American held hostage or wrongfully detained.”
Needless to say, countries who “wrongfully” detain innocent Americans will expect similar deals to that with the Iranians: billions of dollars in ransom and more, Mr. President.
By Saad Bintifl ah
Academic, Writer, and Former Minister of Information – Kuwait
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