Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Our Iran Hostages Get Eight Years

by Elliott Abrams
August 20, 2011

The two American hostages in Iran, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, have been sentenced to eight years in prison. They have the right to appeal in the coming weeks and presumably will do so, which provides the Iranian regime with one more chance set them free.

We can only hope that the Obama Administration uses these weeks energetically, asking any government with influence in Tehran to intervene and letting the ayatollahs know that there will be a price to pay for the continued incarceration of the two young men on trumped-up charges of spying. This of course requires that the White House come to grips with the need to impose such costs, something that won’t be easy.

If the appeal works or clemency is granted and the two men are released, the Administration will retrospectively appear to have handled this hostage crisis reasonably well. That is what all Americans have to hope for. But if this does not work and a month from now they remain in prison, we will know that the low-key, “quiet diplomacy” approach has finally failed. The White House will then have to tell the American people how it plans to free them now, or a least how it plans to impose sufficient costs on Iran to achieve three goals: increase the chances that they will be freed soon, make it far less likely that Iran will seize American hostages again, and show other criminal regimes that the price for unjust imprisonment of Americans is too high to pay.

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  • Posted by Nikos Retsos

    We have to bite the bullet on this because the U.S. has exhausted all threats of war, and all sanctions it could impose.

    Looking at the whole picture, however, it will be hard for most people to believe that those Americans are innocent – unless they are idiot savages. The reason? Entering Iran, a nation designated “Axis of Evil” and a supporter of terrorism by the U.S, defies logic! There are 192 countries registered at the U.N.; most of them have hiking places and scenery much better than Iran, and they are friendly to a fault! If the Taliban caught me hiking in the Afghan mountains, would they believe that I was just a tourist enjoying the Khyber Pass scenery, or they will think I am a CIA contractor mapping their routes? I believe that we should look at every story with a sense of fairness – rather than keep ourselves in an “auto lynching attitude” on anything that comes out of Iran.

    Would the Iranians believe that they lost their way into Iran at a time that the U.S., Israel and France were giving Iran ultimatums to stop its nuclear program or face a massive bombing campaign? I suspect that those Americans might have been scouts for the Iranian anti-government group MTK or for the Israeli Intelligence, scouting unguarded routes to smuggle weapons and explosives into Iran. The fact that 2 Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated by bombers in motorcycles recently proved that foreigners had entered Iran
    with explosives. The “cause and effect,’ therefore, is there, as it is here in the U.S. That is why the TSA body searches even 5-year old kids at the airport gates to make sure they don’t carry any hidden explosives for grown ups. With so much hostility between the West and the Muslim world, sad stories -like this one- are bound to happen, because everybody tries to protect their backs from their enemies.

    I don’t believe that those hikers will spend 8 years in Iranian prisons. But the Iranian court imposed that stiff sentence to send a warning message to spies or adventurers from hostile nations: “Entering Iran illegally is going to be more than an adventure.” Nikos Retsos, retired professor

  • Posted by Robert

    These two tree buggers should be billed for the reckless trouble and cost they incurred to the US government and keep they backpacking trips confined to world bank protests or they will be off to tour the border between north and south Korea before we know it.

  • Posted by Corey Bardo

    Perhaps if we left Iran alone in the first place,this wouldn’t have happened.Those men should not be imprisoned.We also should not have sanctions on there nuclear policy,it’s very simple and very unethical. A revolving door of conflicting foreign policy.It’s silly this council actually thinks it reflects the foreign policy of The United States.The civilian and proletariat belief of what foreign policy should be will ultimately prevail.Lets get these guys home and stay out of there.

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