On Aug. 11, the Biden administration publicly announced its negotiation of a prisoner swap with Iran. The exchange would release five Americans unjustly detained in Iran in return for Tehran’s access to over $6 billion in oil revenue frozen in South Korea. The prisoner swap itself leaves much to criticize, but what’s worse is the administration’s apparent attempt to mislead the American people.
In a news conference, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “If Iran were to take de-escalating steps with respect to their nuclear ambitions again, that would all be to the good.” But, he added, “We’re not in active negotiations about the nuclear program.”
According to Mr. Kirby, the prisoner exchange is not connected with any discussion of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Contrary to Mr. Kirby’s statements, however, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran has reduced its stockpiles of 60% enriched uranium — a key tenet of President Biden’s previously failed negotiations with Iran.
It is at best highly suspicious that Iran reduced its nuclear stockpiles just one day after initiating a one-sided prisoner swap that the Biden administration claims has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
The truth is that Americans are still mostly in the dark as to what the administration has negotiated with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. And Mr. Biden hopes to keep it that way.
The deal is an informal, unwritten, oral agreement, not a formal deal that would warrant congressional oversight. Key parts of the agreement seem to be negotiated verbally — free of any paper trail that could find its way into a congressional hearing.
Further, the deal is being made public in the middle of Congress’ August recess. With most members of Congress at home in their districts, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to exercise its authority to roll back the agreement.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act requires Congress to review any deal related to Iran’s nuclear capability. The law gives Congress explicit authority to formally disapprove any nuclear-related deal within 30 days of its conclusion and thus prevent the president from moving forward.
In other words, the Biden administration’s perfect timing to evade congressional oversight was not, for lack of a better term, an oversight.
A political play is also in the works. In all likelihood, the deal is Mr. Biden’s attempt to avoid a crisis with Iran right before his reelection campaign heats up. After a series of foreign policy missteps that have emboldened our adversaries like China and Russia, the president can’t afford the political blowback that would accompany a disastrous outcome in Iran.
Unfortunately for the Biden campaign, this prisoner swap is likely to invite the same nightmare scenario in Iran that the president seeks to avoid.
Even apart from the shady process in which this prisoner swap was announced, it’s a bad deal on its face. Releasing $6 billion to a murderous regime in exchange for four American hostages isn’t a winning foreign policy strategy. It only gives Iran incentive to wrongfully hold Americans for ransom.
The former commander-in-chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — who served in that position for over 17 years — telegraphed Tehran’s strategy in a 2021 interview. He publicly stated that he would hold “1,000 more Americans” hostage to boost Iran’s economy.
And with last week’s $6 billion deal, Iran seems to be faring quite well with such a strategy.
Senior Biden administration officials may hope to negotiate in secret, away from public scrutiny, but they would do well to at least consider the perspective of those who know what it’s like to be held hostage by the regime in Tehran.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic who was wrongfully detained for 804 days in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons, derided Mr. Biden’s ransom payment to Iran, saying that “such a payment will only incentivize Iran’s hostage diplomacy further,” endangering “the lives of even more foreign and dual nationals visiting Iran.”
As a former hostage with experience of Iran’s brutal regime, Ms. Moore-Gilbert sees what all Americans should see: There is only one winner in this U.S.-Iran prisoner swap, and it’s not the United States.
At a minimum, Americans ought to expect two things from our country’s commander in chief: transparency and common sense. President Biden’s Iran policy delivers neither.
• Jeremy Hunt is an Army veteran, a media fellow at the Hudson Institute, and chairman of Veterans on Duty, a nonprofit organization focused on national security. Learn more at vetsonduty.org.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Click to Read More and View Comments
Click to Hide