Following a judgment against a Paris-based bank with Iranian ties, money belonging to the Iranian government has become available for compensation payments to the American hostages seized at our embassy in 1979. They were held in captivity for 444 days. These Americans have received no compensation for their captivity for more than 36 years. The agreement under which they were released barred them from seeking any relief from the regime. Fifteen of those taken hostage by the regime have died in the years since, but thirty-seven are still alive. Each of them are eligible under new legislation to restitution of $10,000 per day of captivity, a total of $4.4 million dollars each if they receive the full award.
The award is a combination of the work of the courts and the Congress, but does not represent any thawing of the Iran regime itself. Indeed, the Iranian government marks the seizing of the hostages at the American embassy as a national holiday. At this year’s celebration, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari gave remarks that included a warning to be vigilant against any possibility of the infiltration of American values once the sanctions are removed under the Iran deal. Pondering the implications of the influx of new money and investment from outside, an influx which may be coming as soon as next month, has sparked a period of intense paranoia among the regime’s leaders. A host of Iranian-Americans and Iranians who have business ties in America have been arrested or disappeared by the regime.
One of them is the Washington Post‘s Jason Rezaian, who has already been held longer than the 1979 hostages were. He was recently sentenced to an “unspecified” prison term. Rezaian is accused of espionage, a practice that is quite difficult to discern from a thoroughgoing and honest journalism of the type that tyrannical states like Iran finds horrifying to contemplate. The Washington Post was intimidated into support for the Iran deal in the hope that he might be released, but after the deal was completed the Iranian government issued its sentence on their reporter. The Post may be waking up to the perfidy of the Iranian state. This week they ran an editorial strongly condemning both Iran and the Obama administration. Pointing to the human rights abuses and recent testing of nuclear capable-missiles, the Post charged the President to do his duty:
It’s not hard to guess the reasons for this fecklessness. President Obama is reluctant to do anything that might derail the nuclear deal before Iran carries out its commitments, including uninstalling thousands of centrifuges and diluting or removing tons of enriched uranium. The same logic prompted him to tolerate Iran’s malign interventions in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, along with the arrest of Mr. Rezaian…
[T]hat ignores the clear connections between the missile launches and Tehran’s ambitions to become a nuclear power. The only practical military purpose of the missiles the regime is testing is to carry atomic warheads. And while missile launches are not prohibited by the nuclear pact itself, the separate resolution banning them remains in effect until the deal is implemented, after which a new resolution takes effect that calls on Iran not to develop such missiles for eight years.
By flouting the U.N. resolutions, Iran is clearly testing the will of the United States and its allies to enforce the overall regime limiting its nuclear ambitions. If there is no serious response, it will press the boundaries in other areas — such as the inspection regime. It will take maximum advantage of Mr. Obama’s fear of undoing a legacy achievement, unless and until its bluff is called.
Mr. Rezaian may someday be freed, but for now the Obama administration prefers its legacy to his liberty. It is a pale legacy, an ‘agreement’ that Iran has already twisted so that it gets all the benefits at none of the costs. As they continue to celebrate their audacity in seizing Americans has hostages, then as today, the President should remember that it is his weakness that will really be remembered.