Why Payments to Iran Always Backfire

In the Middle East, perception means more than reality, and the perception among those who hold the reins of power inside Iran is that the $400 million payment—one opposed by the US Justice Department—was very much a ransom. Unfortunately, rather than resolve a crisis and ameliorate relations, the Obama administration and State Department’s willingness to make such a payment may actually undercut any chance of rapprochement. Even diplomats who still believe they are engaging sincere regime reformists rather than being ensnared in an elaborate game of good cop/bad cop should be worried, for the taking of new hostages is as good a barometer of where power lays in Iran as any.

It is bad enough that not only Iranian officials but also other rogue regimes and terrorists groups can conclude that the United States is susceptible to blackmail and that its condemnation of ransom payments is only rhetorical. That the Obama administration blessed a cash payment and allowed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to take possession of it augments the possibility that it will be used to catalyze terrorism across the globe and blinds the intelligence community and Treasury analysts who have dedicated their careers to keeping America safe.

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