Hostages, Hostages Everywhere...
When pundits and politicians talk about “negotiating with Iran,” it conjures up an image of well-dressed statesmen sitting in elegant rooms, talking about the niceties of international relations. But this is only a part of the picture; much of the process is conducted in little hotel rooms by secret intermediaries, and they talk about very unpleasant things, such as torture and blackmail. At least one recent “breakthrough” in relations with Iran was extorted from Great Britain and the United States by an Iranian proxy group in Iraq that kidnaped five British civilians two years ago, and, in the secret negotiations that have been conducted by anonymous middlemen two and three arms’ lengths away from the British Government, have offered to swap them for Shi’ite terrorists in American hands.
At the end of last month, an Iranian-sponsored terror group in Iraq announced that they had reached agreement with Her Majesty’s Government that would result in the staged releases of five British hostages in exchange for several terrorists held by American forces. Not only that, but the Guardian reported that “efforts to finalize the deal were a factor in Britain’s move to re-engage publicly with Hezbollah’s political wing in Lebanon this month.”
In simple English, if the story is true, we and the Brits appeased the Iranians on two levels: we agreed to release their killers and the Brits legitimized Hezbollah. Both we and the British officially reject dealing for hostages.
Kidnaping works most of the time (otherwise they wouldn’t do it), as Tony Soprano would be one of the first to tell you. It works for the Mafia, the Somali pirates, and for terrorists, including Iran’s ruling mullahs. I saw this first-hand in the mid-1980s, when I was an intermediary for the Reagan Administration, dealing with the regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose terror instrument, Hezbollah, had taken several American hostages. Like every other democratically elected leader I know of, Reagan could not bear the thought of American citizens being deprived of liberty, and the actual circumstances were even worse: American hostages were being tortured to death. In the course of winning the release of several American prisoners, Reagan made numerous public and secret gestures in favor of the mullahs, and they responded by toning down their anti-American rhetoric, and by calling a temporary halt to the kidnapings. When the Americans agreed to sell weapons to the Iranians, the mullahs ordered Hezbollah to release some hostages. The world saw the “diplomatic” gestures and proclamations, but the secret hostage negotiations were a central part of the story.