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Cash for Hostages

As the world watches, Sarah Shourd is released by the Iranian government today. We are all, as we should be, pleased at this turn of events. It does leave a few questions unanswered, however. Were the three “hikers” spies or assets of the CIA? Why, if Iran is being humanitarian, did they release only one of the hikers? And the biggest question of all, where is the outcry from the left?

About five lustrum ago, the left went ballistic over what became known as the “Arms for Hostages” crisis. This was a “crisis” that involved President Reagan and senior administration officials secretly selling arms to Iran, hoping the sales would help secure the release of hostages. The cash realized from the sales was used to aid the Contras in Nicaragua. The Iran-Contra affair became headline news for months, and resulted in the formation of the Tower Commission. Some of the principals were indicted, but nobody was ever jailed. Oddly enough, it was a radical muslim, Mehdi Hashemi, who leaked the story to the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa, who exposed the arrangement on November 3, 1986

Fast-forward 25 years. Today, the AP reports that Iran freed Sarah Shourd after a $500,000 bail was paid to win her freedom. However, the case is still far from resolved. Shortly after announcing Shourd’s release, Iranian authorities said they are not considering the immediate release of the two Americans arrested with Shourd. Iran has charged all three with spying, though their families say they were innocent hikers arrested in a scenic mountain area along Iran’s border with Iraq.

President Barack Obama welcomed the release, saying, “I am very pleased that Sarah Shourd has been released by the Iranian government, and will soon be united with her family.”

Sarah is equally pleased, praising everyone, but singling out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “I want to really offer my thanks to…all of the governments, …and especially, particularly want to address President Ahmadinejad and all of the Iranian officials, the religious leaders, and thank them for this humanitarian gesture,” Shourd told Iran’s English-language Press TV at the airport before she boarded her flight out. Understandably, her effusive praise reflects the fact that she had not yet left Iran, and that two friends are still in jail there.

Now we can get to the heart of the matter. Ahmadinejad claims that Shourd was being released on compassionate grounds because of health reasons. But Tehran’s chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said a $500,000 bail had been paid to Iran’s Bank Melli in Muscat, Oman. It is not immediately clear who paid it. A U.S. official said neither the U.S. government nor the families of the hikers had paid the bail, but could not say who else might have paid it. The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

U.S. sanctions have put blanket restrictions on transactions with Iran’s main state bank, Bank Melli, which has also been the channel for past bail payments to Iranian courts by foreign detainees. Washington accuses the bank of helping fund Iran’s ballistic missile development and its nuclear program, which the U.S. says could eventually lead to nuclear weapons. U.N. sanctions also call on governments to block transactions with Melli and another major Iranian financial institution, Bank Saderat, if there are “reasonable grounds” they could contribute to Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran says it only seeks peaceful nuclear reactors for energy.

So here we are, twenty-five years after Iran-contra, and someone is again paying for hostages. Then, we could at least assert the Monroe Doctrine as a defense, and claim some moral high ground. The cash went to aid anti-communist insurgents in our own back yard. This time the payment is made in cash, not arms, although that seems to be a distinction without a difference. And there is nothing defensible about the payments. There is no purpose to the payment,  other than proof that we now, apparently, do negotiate with terrorists.

Yesterday, Shourd’s family asked the Iranians to drop or lower the demanded sum because they were having difficulty raising the money. The Iranians, on humanitarian grounds, I suppose, refused. Yet just 24 hours later, the money shows up. This was, by the way, the largest known bail for any high-profile Westerner jailed in the past year. Aside from proving that Ahmadinejad is a goddam liar, it also proves that Iran continues to be a criminal state engaged in kidnapping for ransom.

The real questions, however, are these:

Who ponied up the half-million dollars ransom for Shroud? If it turns out that the US funded the payments to Bank Melli, will the left demand Obama’s resignation with the same vigor they did Reagan’s? Why has the press been silent about the violations of both US and UN sanctions? And why are we so blithe as to keep repeating Ahmadinejad’s assertion that this was a humanitarian release?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 3, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Great read! I want you to follow up to this topic =D

    Warm Regards,
    Jamal

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