The GOP Gets the Iran Prisoner
By Charles Krauthammer
January 21, 2016
Give President Obama credit. His
Iran nuclear deal may be disastrous but the packaging was brilliant. The
near-simultaneous prisoner exchange was meant to distract from last
Saturday’s official implementation of the sanctions-lifting deal. And
it did. The
Republicans concentrated almost all their fire on the swap sideshow.
And in denouncing the swap, they
were wrong. True, we should have made the prisoner release a precondition for
negotiations. But that preemptive concession was made long ago (among many
others, such as granting Iran in advance the right to enrich uranium).
The remaining question was getting our prisoners released before we gave away
all our leverage upon implementation of the nuclear accord. We did.
Republicans say: We shouldn’t
negotiate with terror states. But we do and we should. How else do you get
hostages back? And yes, of course negotiating encourages further hostage taking.
But there is always something to be gained by kidnapping Americans. This swap
does not affect that truth one way or the other.
And here, we didn’t give away
much. The seven released Iranians, none of whom has blood on his hands, were
sanctions busters (and a hacker), and sanctions are essentially over
now. The slate is clean.
But how unfair, say the critics.
We released prisoners duly convicted in a court of law. Iran released perfectly
innocent, unjustly jailed hostages.
Yes, and so what? That’s just
another way of saying we have the rule of law, they don’t. It doesn’t mean
we abandon our hostages. Natan Sharansky was a prisoner of conscience who spent
eight years in the gulag on totally phony charges. He was exchanged for two real
Soviet spies. Does anyone think we should have said no?
The one valid criticism of the
Iranian swap is that we left one,
perhaps two, Americans behind and unaccounted for. True. But the swap itself
was perfectly reasonable. And cleverly used by the administration to create a
heartwarming human interest story to overshadow a rotten diplomatic deal, just
Alan Gross release sweetened a Cuba deal that gave the store away to
the Castro brothers.
The real story of Saturday, Jan.
16, 2016 — “Implementation
Day” of the Iran deal — was that it marked a historic inflection point
in the geopolitics of the Middle East. In a stroke, Iran shed almost four
decades of rogue-state status and was declared a citizen of good standing of the
international community, open to trade, investment and diplomacy. This, without
giving up, or even promising to change, its policy of subversion and aggression.
This, without having forfeited its status as the world’s greatest purveyor of
Overnight, it went not just from
pariah to player but from pariah to dominant regional power, flush with $100
billion in unfrozen assets and virtually free of international
sanctions. The oil trade alone will pump tens of billions of dollars into its
economy. The day after Implementation Day, President Hassan Rouhani predicted
5 percent growth — versus the contracting, indeed hemorrhaging,
economy in pre-negotiation 2012 and 2013.
On Saturday, the Iranian transport
the purchase of 114 Airbuses from Europe. This inaugurates a
rush of deals binding European companies to Iran, thoroughly
undermining Obama’s pipe dream of “snapback sanctions” if Iran cheats.
Cash-rich, reconnected with global
banking and commerce, and facing an Arab world collapsed into a miasma of raging
civil wars, Iran has instantly become the dominant power of the Middle East. Not
to worry, argued the administration. The nuclear opening will temper Iranian
adventurism and empower Iranian moderates.
The opposite is happening. And
it’s not just the ostentatious, illegal ballistic missile launches; not just
Iran’s president reacting to the most puny retaliatory sanctions by ordering
his military to
accelerate the missile program; not just the videotaped and broadcast
humiliation of seized U.S. sailors.
Look at what the mullahs are doing
at home. Within hours of “implementation,” the
regime disqualified 2,967 of roughly 3,000 moderate candidates from
even running in parliamentary elections next month. And just to make sure we got
the point, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reiterated that Iranian
policy — aggressively interventionist and immutably anti-American —
In 1938, the morning after Munich,
Europe woke up to Germany as the continent’s dominant power. Last Sunday, the
Middle East woke up to Iran as the regional hegemon, with a hand — often
predominant — in the future of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the Gulf Arab states and,
in time, in the very survival of Israel.