Iran’s War Against America

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have celebrated the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran and the release of five American prisoners held by its government as a triumph of “smart diplomacy.” According to Kerry, it was the nuclear deal that paved the way for the U.S. to settle peacefully the conflict with the Iranians over the jailed Americans, as well as secure the release of ten American sailors detained in the Persian Gulf. “Were it not for that process, I do not believe this could’ve happened, nor do they,” he commented after the prisoners were released.

Critics have a different take. The exchange of Americans unlawfully detained on specious pretexts, for seven Iranians duly indicted or already convicted for violating American law by stealing military related technology, appeared to be less a prisoner exchange than a payment of ransom for hostages. Indeed, $1.7 billion of Iranian funds impounded in 1979 was wired to Iran just as three of the American prisoners departed from Iran in a Swiss Air Force jet––on top of the $100-150 billion promised to Iran as part of the deal. Nothing was done about the $45 billion in civil judgments awarded to Americans for damages suffered from Iranian-sponsored terrorism. Moreover, hard upon the Americans’ release, three Iraqi-Americans were kidnapped in Iraq, most likely by Asaib Ahl al-Haqa, a jihadist militia sponsored by Iran’s Republican Guard Quds Force.

The failures of this latest deal with Iran are consistent with the long history of our relationship with the Islamic Republic from the time it was created in 1979. That history reveals repeated mistakes, failures of imagination, and an inability to understand correctly the motives and beliefs that drive Iran’s ruling clerical elite. Over thirty years of “outreach” and “engagement” under presidents of both parties have not transformed a theocratic regime fired with religious certainty and confidence in the righteousness of its cause.

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