“This is a good day.”
So began President Barack Obama’s televised statement on the release of Americans held in Iran following delicate negotiations between Washington and Tehran on a prisoner swap apparently tied indirectly to last year’s historic nuclear pact to scale back Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Five Americans, including a Washington Post reporter, were freed in exchange for seven Iranians.
The prisoner trade was swiftly condemned by Republican presidential hopefuls, including frontrunner Donald Trump:
In Iran deal we get 4 prisoners. They get $150 billion, 7 most wanted and many off watch list. This will create great incentive for others!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2016
The United States and Europe lifted sanctions on Iran, and also released roughly $100 billion of its assets after international inspectors concluded that the country had dismantled large portions of its nuclear program.
Despite the developments, inarguably positive for the freed Americans and their families, Iran remains on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. And that means the road ahead will be long and bumpy.
The U.S. And Iran Have A Long Way To Go Before They Can Really Be Friends
Akbar Shahid Ahmed – Huffington Post
…[T]o many Muslim world leaders, the U.S. push toward closer ties with Iran is desperately flawed. And unless those countries — such as the powerful Gulf states — change their opinion, the U.S. can’t fully embrace Iran as the strategic partner some say it should be.
The Arab Sunni Muslim leaders of the closest U.S. allies in the region — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan and other states — have said for years that President Barack Obama is too keen to work with the Shiite rulers of Iran.
They see Tehran as dangerous. They point to historic worries about the anti-monarchy 1979 revolution there inspiring similar rebellions among large Shiite minorities in Sunni-led states. They also note Iran’s web of regional relationships, with players like Lebanon’s anti-Israel Hezbollah paramilitary movement, Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar Assad and Shiite figures in Iraq.
President Barack Obama Hails ‘Smart Diplomacy’
Free at Last
The Editorial Board – The Washington Post
Mr. Rezaian’s release, and that of fellow Americans Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, is unlikely to alter that policy or Iran’s transgressions of international law.
The International Atomic Energy Agency certified Saturday that Iran had complied with the initial requirements of the nuclear deal, including shipping 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium out of the country and putting thousands of centrifuges into storage….
Since the accord was signed, however, Iran has twice violated a separate U.N. Security Council resolution prohibiting testing of long-range missiles….
The Post and Rezaian’s family will celebrate his safe return and that of the other Americans. But in the absence of a firmer U.S. policy, Iran’s attacks on Americans and vital U.S. interests will surely continue.
Iran’s Hostage Triumph
The Editorial Board – Wall Street Journal
…[T]he Iranians negotiated a steep price for their freedom.
The White House agreed to pardon or drop charges against seven Iranian nationals charged with or convicted of crimes in the U.S., mostly for violating sanctions designed to retard Iran’s military or nuclear programs.
Iran gets back men who were assisting its military ambitions while we get innocents…. All of this shows that the nuclear accord is already playing out as critics predicted. The West will tread gingerly in challenging Iran’s nonnuclear military and regional ambitions lest it renege on its nuclear promises. Iran has again shown the world that taking American hostages while Barack Obama is President can yield a diplomatic and military windfall.