Friday, July 17, 2015

Prisoners of Iran

The Obama Administration got a bit of flack for not including the release of the 3-4 Americans currently being held in Iran (3 are definitely held and the 4th disappeared on Kish, a Persian Gulf Island controlled by Iran, in 2007) to the nuclear deal. But I'm wondering why everyone is assuming that there wasn't some side deal concerning the at least the three confirmed prisoners' release.

The U.S. does not like to openly bargain over hostages. So, for example, instead of explicitly making the release of Alan Gross part of the U.S.-Cuba deal to reestablish relations, Gross was released under a side agreement prisoner swap with Cuba that was a separate deal. Maybe there is a side deal in the works for Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian (I think that Robert Levinson is probably dead). If that's the case, the Administration wouldn't be able to talk about that until the deal is done--possibly the Iranians are waiting to see if Congress can stop the deal.

Of course this is all speculation. Maybe I am grasping at straws. It's just that all three were detained under pretty flimsy charges. It always seemed like the Iranians wanted to use them as bargaining chips.  I would be surprised if the Iranians did not offer to release them as part of the negotiations in exchange for some American concession.