In June, we wrote here that the administration of President Joe Biden was considering a freeze-for-bribe (“freeze-for-freeze” according to the administration officials) agreement with Iran. Last week, the administration announced a hostage deal with Iran that, beneath the surface, implements this freeze-for-bribe.
At first glance, the agreement is as follows: The U.S. has agreed to release up to $15.5 billion to the Islamic Republic of Iran and has released five Islamic Republic agents held in U.S. prisons. In exchange, Tehran has released five U.S. citizens. $2.7 billion of that money had been released prior to the agreement as a gesture of goodwill. An additional $6 billion was released on Monday, and the rest will reportedly come from the International Monetary Fund.
The agreement leaves behind two U.S. nationals — albeit not citizens — to languish in the Islamic Republic’s captivity. Shahab Dalili was taken hostage upon visiting Iran for a family funeral. Jamshid Sharmahd, a German–Iranian permanent resident of California, is a unique case. Unlike most Americans taken hostage by the regime, he should not be faulted for visiting Iran but lauded for his courage of being a prominent dissident. He was kidnapped while visiting Dubai and smuggled into Iran, and he faces the death penalty for his political activities. Yet the three governments with stakes in his case — the United States, Germany, and the U.A.E. — have shown little interest in his release.
The agreement requires the Islamic Republic to use the funds only for humanitarian purposes, and it entrusts Qatar to be an honest guardian of this clause. But Qatar, the Islamic Republic’s fellow fundamentalist, Jew-hating state sponsor of terrorism, is an untrustworthy partner. Moreover, money is fungible. In fact, Ebrahim Raisi, the president of the Islamic Republic, told CNN’s Lester Holt on Tuesday that his regime will use the money as it wishes to and without constraints.
In comparison, during the administration of President Donald Trump, the Islamic Republic agreed to release one U.S. citizen in exchange for one of its agents held in a U.S. prison. An honest journalist would ask the administration about the disparity between the two agreements, and why the current administration made much greater concessions. The only two explanations are that either the current administration is far worse at diplomatic negotiations or that there are secret, side agreements. The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.
Read the rest at National Review.
Shay Khatiri is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.
Andrew Ghalili is a senior policy analyst at the National Union for Democracy in Iran.