The 'Historic' Phone Call Was a Hostage Negotiation
As advertised, Hassan Rouhani was the star of the week at the Great UN Circus. He knew it, and he treated his American hosts with arrogance and contempt, and was duly hailed as a peace-seeker. He spent hours and hours with diplomats (just not American ones), journalists, academic apologists such as Gary Sick, and anti-American rabble rousers like Louis Farrakhan, but he didn't have time for President Obama.
No matter. When the Iranians told the White House that Rouhani could squeeze in a few words on the phone, Obama eagerly called him up, thereby giving the journalists and apologists the opportunity to use their prepared language about "historic conversation," etcetera etcetera and so forth.
Rouhani's basic message was to say "you'd better be nice to me, or you'll get the hardliners," and some nasties from central casting duly appeared on cue at the Tehran airport when Rouhani returned from satanic New York City, shouting at the president and even throwing a shoe. A couple of the demonstrators were arrested, underscoring their presumed menace (anyone who believes the "protest" was spontaneous badly needs a lower-school refresher course in totalitarianism). It was overkill; Obama wants a deal. He doesn't need further convincing.
And he's willing to pay for it. Quite a lot, in fact. Even before Rouhani deigned to take Obama's call, we had given the Islamic Republic an ancient treasure, a cup crafted two millenia before Mohammed, said to be worth at least a million dollars.
Remember that Obama gave the Brits a collection of his favorite speeches.
Why such largesse? It's a shocking present, way beyond the normal. Orders of magnitude greater, in fact. What had the Iranians done to deserve it?
I don't know, but if I were forced to answer, I'd reply with another question: what did Obama and Rouhani talk about? Yes, I know they exchanged pleasantries about wanting a happier world, but there was one subject raised by Obama. A "senior administration official" told the press on background about it:
The fate of three U.S. citizens who have disappeared or been imprisoned in Iran was discussed during Friday's historic conversation between the two nations' presidents, a senior U.S. administration official said.
U.S. President Barack Obama, during his phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, "noted our concern about three American citizens who have been held within Iran -- Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati -- and noted our interest in seeing those Americans reunited with their families," the official said.
Levinson is a former FBI agent who was disappeared from Kish Island several years ago. He was said to be investigating cigarette smuggling. Abedini is an Iranian-American Christian minister arrested and charged with subversion. Hekmati is an Iranian-American Marine who was said to be visiting relatives in Tehran, and was arrested and charged with espionage.
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.