Joe Biden will pat himself on the back after agreeing a prisoner swap with Iran last week. Admittedly, it means giving an evil regime $6 billion (£4.75 billion), but this is oil revenue that is segregated under sanctions laws. So the president can claim that his deal won’t cost the American taxpayer a penny. No doubt he’s already looking forward to the warm glow of friendly media as he welcomes the hostages home. Perhaps he hopes to boost his popularity in the race for the White House. But the reality is that Biden’s shady prisoner swap will only damage American prestige, encourage Iranians to take more Western hostages and help fund the regime’s nuclear ambitions.
The terms of the deal reportedly include moving $6 billion from South Korea to Qatar. Iran will be able to access the money for “humanitarian” purposes – although the police will find this problematic. The deal is also likely to include the repatriation of a number of Iranians detained in the US for sanctions violations. Only then will American hostages be released.
Of course, this isn’t the West’s first Faustian pact with Iran — nor will it be the last. Last year, Boris Johnson handed over nearly £400 million in frozen assets in exchange for two British hostages, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori. The hunger strike campaign of Nazanin’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, won British public opinion and forced the then Prime Minister to override the Foreign Office’s unwillingness to accept such ransom demands.
The Biden administration was reportedly goaded by Downing Street’s decision to agree a separate deal, hoping to include the British pair in a comprehensive package to revive the moribund nuclear deal with Iran, the JCPOA. to blow. Now, however, the State Department recognizes that hopes of reviving the 2015 deal are dead and is settling for a prisoner exchange.
One downside to Biden’s deal is that it lends credibility to one of the most dangerous rogue states in the world at a crucial time, allowing Iran to expand its malign influence. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has provided a showcase for Iranian drones, a mainstay of Putin’s attacks on cities. By defying UN sanctions against Russia with impunity, Tehran has entered yet another conflict with the West.
It is also building a new arms industry and reviving Ayatollah Khomeini’s dream of a global uprising against “the Great Satan.” In the Persian Gulf, Iran’s navy is hunting down commercial tankers, threatening global maritime traffic. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has long been at the forefront of such piracy.
The IRGC is ubiquitous in Syria, Yemen and throughout the Middle East and is also infiltrating Western countries. Here, Home Secretary Suella Braverman last week described the IRGC as the most serious current threat to British national security. After evading prohibition as a terrorist organisation, its tentacles reach deep into the UK. MI5 has thwarted some 15 IRGC plots to kill or kidnap Iranians living in Britain.
In Iran, meanwhile, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has ordered Ebrahim Raisi, his hardline president, to crush all opposition. As a hanging judge of the Iranian Revolution, Raisi became notorious for his death sentences. Now “the Butcher of Tehran” strikes again in a wave of protests against the hard law “chastity and hijab”.
By playing a central role between Russia and the West, Iran has elevated itself from a pariah to a regional power. Once it has nuclear weapons, it will be global. And by bribing Iran to release hostages for electoral gain, Joe Biden risks showing weakness not just to the Middle East, but to America’s enemies everywhere.
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