Last week the Obama administration celebrated two results of the stubborn diplomacy that the President in 2008 announced would be the trademark of his administration, and that earlier led to the breakthrough with Cuba. First it was established that Iran had met the conditions of the agreement that would prohibit it from developing a nuclear weapon, as a result of which sanctions were lifted and frozen assets will be returned to Iran. On top of that, to the surprise of many, five Americans who were held hostage by Iran were set free, in return for which seven Iranian or Iranian-American men charged with violating the sanctions against the Islamic Republic were freed by the US, and charges against fourteen Iranians outside of the US were dismissed. Not everybody was happy with the outcome of these separate but interlinked negotiations. Republican members of Congress have been fulminating against the nuclear agreement ever since it was announced, claiming that it would guarantee Iran’s acquiring a nuclear weapon, and the hostage-prisoner swap didn’t sit well with the same crowd either.
As with most messages coming out of GOP campaigns these days it is astounding how disingenuous the comments are. Following the lead of Netanyahu’s mouthpiece in the US, Senator Tom Cotton, all the scientific evidence that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon under the terms of the agreement is denied. Simultaneously all leading candidates proclaim that if the US had upheld the sanctions more could have been achieved, conveniently ignoring the fact that the US would have stood alone if it had refused to accept an agreement that satisfied all other parties in the negotiations, and that its sanctions would have had minimal effect on Iran. As for the returning of frozen assets to Iran, the usual fact-free rhetoric can be heard. All candidates tell the lie that the US is ‘giving’ $150 billion to Iran, while the real number is $54 billion and nothing is given to Iran that it didn’t own before. In return for the money and the lifting of sanctions Iran gives up its ability to build a nuclear weapon, which is not nothing, considering that nine countries, of which the US and Israel are not its friends, already have those weapons.
The Republican comments on the hostage-prisoner deal are as bizarre as they are confusing. First, the numbers don’t add up: They get seven with a bonus and we get five, which cannot be a good deal. Then the ‘argument’ can be heard that the US should have been ‘tougher’ with Iran, in order to get the hostages freed sooner and without concessions. Nobody can explain how exactly that would have worked, but maybe carpet-bombing Tehran should have been an option.
An additional Republican point is that the swap encourages the hostage taking of Americans abroad, as if the groups who would be interested in doing that need any encouragement. According to this ‘logic’ the US should never negotiate with hostage takers, but so far none of the candidates has declared that the hostages should have been left where they were.
The garbled nonsense that Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush and Christie jointly have produced in the last couple of days illustrates once more how messy a Republican presidency would be. In a world that is as volatile as ours we cannot take a chance with any one of those clowns.