On Thursday night as the ball drops in Times Square, millions of Americans watching on TV will join the revelers in Manhattan to celebrate the new year. For other Americans, alas, the arrival of Jan. 1 will mark only the beginning of another year behind Iranian bars.
It’s long past time to bring these men home.
At last year’s White House welcome for Bowe Bergdahl—the soldier who walked away from his combat post in Afghanistan and will soon be tried for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy—President Obama did manage to refer to other Americans “unjustly detained abroad” who also “deserve to be reunited with their families.”
So what has happened since? Last summer, scarcely a year after that Rose Garden ceremony, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a nuclear deal with Tehran. The agreement puts the Iranians on a path to a bomb and releases billions of dollars that had been frozen by sanctions. But no American walked free. When asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” about these prisoners, Mr. Kerry answered this way:
“There was not a meeting that took place, not one meeting that took place—believe me, that’s not an exaggeration—where we did not raise the issue of our American citizens being held.”
Mr. Kerry is oblivious to the obvious: If what he says is true, it only confirms his impotence.
Back when the nukes deal was being negotiated, the idea was that an agreement would clear the way for these Americans to be freed. That hasn’t happened, and it hasn’t happened because the Iranians are not stupid. As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin noted recently, “Each American prisoner makes Iran that much more confident that nothing it does will tempt Obama to stop the deal.”
This helps explain why Iran in October convicted a Washington Post reporter of bogus espionage charges, after the deal was reached. Indeed, that same month Iran arrested an Iranian-American businessman named Siamak Namazi.
The reporter’s name is Jason Rezaian, and he has been held captive for more than 500 days since his arrest. A year ago, Mr. Kerry released a statement saying he was “personally dismayed and disturbed” by the charges against Mr. Rezaian. Unfortunately, Mr. Kerry’s personal dismay hasn’t disturbed the Iranians.
Robert Levinson is another story. The former FBI agent disappeared in Iran in 2007 while on a half-baked CIA mission. The Iranians say they don’t know what happened to Mr. Levinson, the father of seven. At one point he was written off as dead, until photos surfaced showing him alive. And now Mr. Kerry expects a regime that won’t come clean about Mr. Levinson to be forthcoming about its nuclear program?
Amir Hekmati is an American-born Marine veteran arrested in Iran in 2011 while visiting his grandmother. He has kept up the fight from prison, at one point smuggling out a letter in which he said that a televised confession he’d made had been done under duress—and asked Mr. Kerry to reject any overture from Tehran to trade him for Iranian operatives held in the U.S.
Saeed Abedini is another detained Iranian-American and a convert to Christianity. Though Iran claims to respect the right of Christian worship, Christians are harassed and Mr. Abedini was arrested when he returned to Iran to build an orphanage. Such are the menaces to Iran these days. He has been in jail since 2012.
It’s important to repeat these names—loudly, frequently and in public. The reason is that such Americans have no natural constituency pleading for them, outside of their families and the occasional congressman. For a White House, there’s always some trade deal, some military exercise or other agreement that can make the plight of an individual American seem less a call for action than an irritant to the diplomatic agenda.
CONTINUE READING AT THE LINK BELOW
Write to McGurn@wsj.com.
Dec. 28, 2015 6:39 p.m. ET