Hostage negotiations are not unusual in this world–the United States has ransomed at least one such person in the last few months, but so far as I can tell, no journalist is interested in the story–indeed, it is one of the leitmotifs of the secret diplomacy that has been conducted ever since the Revolution of 1979. What is unusual is the direct involvement of the president, and a White House that publicizes the activity.
Do you think the million-dollar “gift” is actually ransom? I don’t, but with this crowd, most any silliness is possible. I don’t believe it’s ransom because it’s not what the Iranians want from us (and a pre-Muslim artifact is certainly not high on their wish list). They want us to lift sanctions, and they want some of their people released from our prisons.
So what are we to make over all this: Two things:
First, the Rouhani circus was just that; a show to elevate him to star celebrity status, and two gestures toward Obama, the first to insult him, the second to lure him on to believe that something good may yet come from negotiating with the Iranian regime.
Second, that the “historic” phone chat was a pretty empty event, save for the surprising revelation that the president himself is engaged in hostage negotiations. But nobody wants to think about what that means.