Don't Reward Rogue Behavior
by Jonathan Schanzer
January 19, 2016
While we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the nightmare for five Americans is over and they are now out of Iranian custody, the White House's decision to yield to the demands of a state sponsor of terrorism is cause for deep concern on several fronts.
For one, we've released seven convicted Iranian sanctions busters and financial criminals, and expunged international arrest warrants against an additional 14, in exchange for innocent Americans who should have never been incarcerated. President Obama and others who claim this was a diplomatic victory are ignoring that our citizens were held hostage on bogus charges, and that calling this a prisoner swap draws a dangerous equivalency.
Moreover, this capitulation will likely encourage Tehran or its terrorist proxies to take more Americans hostage, as they have over three decades. Iran sees, yet again, that there is no price to pay for its rogue behavior. The nuclear deal signed this summer was bad enough. We agreed to fork over an estimated $100 billion in sanctions relief to the regime for temporarily mothballing parts of an illicit nuclear program it should have never built in the first place. We have since failed to respond meaningfully to Iranian ballistic missile launches, human rights violations, and support for terrorism worldwide.
All of this points to a worrying trend: America itself looks to be held hostage by the nuclear deal. The White House is willing to bend over backwards to keep the weapons agreement on track.
President Obama's foreign policy legacy is inextricably tied to implementing the nuclear deal and fulfilling the promise of détente with Tehran. This gives the Iranian axis an alarming degree of leverage over him for the next year.
There will invariably be those who argue that yielding to Iran's demands was the only way to secure the release of our countrymen. Similarly, White House supporters over the summer argued there was no alternative to the nuclear deal.
Then, as now, there was a better option: refusing to reward Iran for rogue behavior.
Jonathan Schanzer , a former terror finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.