Friday, August 19, 2016

Using the $400 Million Payment as Leverage to Retreive Hostages Was a Brilliant Stroke

Amid our toxic political landscape, smart diplomacy is taken as a misstep, even a crime. It's neither.

Obama is smarter than his opponents admit, so they toss political grenades
that generally miss their mark. The Iranian deal is just another example.

No, I don't know all the details of the Iranian deal, but I know the gist. 37 years ago the Shah was overthrown in Iran, a famous cleric took over, and in the resulting groundswell a number of U.S. diplomats were taken hostage. All Iranian assets were frozen in U.S. banks, and the situation remained that way until recently, when the Iranian nuclear deal unfroze a lot of things, including the Iranian assets.

(The 1979 hostages were released in 1980. The hostages in this story are different and more recent.)

I also remember -- amid the howling and gnashing of teeth that was the GOP reaction to the Iranian deal -- that they screamed bloody murder that the deal was approved without demanding that a number of American prisoners in Iranian jails be returned, as well. That didn't happen because the U.S. wanted the nuclear deal, so they separated out the hostages. And there we were.

And yet, boom!, weeks later the hostages were released, and all the opposition GOP could say was, "Er, uh, it should have been sooner!"

In the past weeks, the same GOP have been trying to link a payment of $400 million to the hostages, saying it was ransom. Donald Trump seized on it, and although he botched the "gotcha!" by citing a film that was actually the wrong film, but he and the rest of Republicandom got some mileage out of it, but not much.

The Obama administration played it down, saying the payment was going to be made and the hostage were coming home. That they seemed to coincide was just a coincidence. The administration stayed with that story until yesterday. Ahem.

Now, they admit the two events coincided for a reason: The payment was withheld until the hostages were released, as leverage to make the release take place. So, far from being a ransom payment, it appears now to be more of a master stroke. You want the money you have coming, you'd better fork over the hostages. And they did.

Well done, Obama administration. Play a little diplomatic hardball, and win. Thank you very much. Now, can we go back to making sense? (I doubt it.)

No comments:

Post a Comment