By Joshua Sharf, Originally published in the New York Observer
We can all be grateful for the safe return of five American prisoners (please don’t call them “hostages”) from Iranian jails. Their families should celebrate their homecoming, and we should all be thankful they’ll be able to resume normal lives, as something other than unwilling guests of the mullahs.
Even as the administration was trumpeting both their return and the implementation of the Iran deal, the first fruits of that poisoned deal became apparent.
In fact, the hostages, the nuclear deal, and a variety of other recent Iranian transgressions are all deeply intertwined—representing the success of an aggressive Iranian strategy, consistent with their contempt for international law and the state system.
In return for the release of the five Americans, the president pardoned 21 Iranians—some of whom had dual citizenship and will stay in the U.S.—involved in aiding Iran’s ballistic missile, nuclear, and cyber espionage programs.
Iran reportedly used the hostages as leverage to get the administration to drop even the minimal sanctions it had decided to impose as a result of Iran’s ballistic missile tests, which violated a number of UN resolutions.