- The Biden administration signed a deal last Friday to transfer $6 billion to Iran in exchange for five American prisoners.
- The deal is unlikely to persuade Iran to make compromises on other goals the U.S. has worked towards, such as restarting the Iran nuclear deal, according to foreign policy experts who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- Additionally, Iran and other foreign adversaries could become emboldened to take more American hostages in the hopes of future “ransom” payments, foreign policy experts and 2024 presidential hopefuls said.
The Biden administration’s $6 billion transfer to Iran in exchange for five American prisoners will likely fail to produce concessions from Tehran, and may further embolden the country against the United States, foreign policy experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The exchange deal is unlikely to persuade Iran to make other compromises, such as restarting the nuclear de-escalation program that was signed in 2015 and has since evolved under the Biden administration, according to foreign policy experts. Additionally, the deal could encourage Iran to take more American citizens hostage in the hopes of securing future “ransom” payments, the experts said.
“Despite earlier attestations by the Biden administration that hostage diplomacy and nuclear diplomacy are separate tracks, it’s clear that the administration sees one as the precursor for the other,” Benham Ben Taleblu, senior researcher on Iranian security and political issues at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said to the DCNF. “The administration will be trading away Iranian prisoners – likely legally prosecuted sanctions violators – and making potentially upwards of 6 billion dollars of frozen Iranian funds available for allegedly humanitarian transactions.”
“But thinking that this will generate goodwill to get Iran to meaningfully curb or end its nuclear program is a fool’s errand, as Tehran has a habit of pocketing concessions and turning the dial back up, on both nuclear escalation and hostage-taking, when needed,” Taleblu said.
The Biden administration has been in talks with Tehran to restart the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) – informally known as the Iran nuclear deal – that was signed in 2015 by the Obama administration. The deal was scrapped in 2018 by former President Donald Trump for containing too many exemptions and a “sunset clause” that would have allowed Iran to resume its nuclear program in 2025.
The Trump administration then installed severe economic sanctions against Iran in an attempt to coerce the country into signing a stricter nuclear agreement, which was unsuccessful.
— BenSabti (@BeniSabti) August 12, 2023
Since the deal’s nullification, Iran has restarted its nuclear program and has now obtained enough nuclear-weapons-grade uranium to build two nuclear weapons. The Biden administration began efforts to return Iran to the deal in 2021, but Iranian leadership has been largely uninterested and refused multiple proposals, leading the administration to come up with new proposals that ease some of the stricter aspects of the deal and waives certain nuclear sanctions.
No current deal has been accepted by Tehran, despite continued efforts by the Biden administration to find compromise.
“It’s also clear from Biden’s shifting redlines and goals with respect to Iran’s nuclear program – moving from a longer and stronger deal, to clean JCPOA resurrection, to a lesser deal, to merely an informal unwritten understanding – that the administration is looking for as little oversight as possible on the entire process,” Taleblu said.
The Biden administration’s exchange agreement could have been the latest attempt to persuade Iran into rejoining the nuclear deal, but Iran will likely view the agreement as a concessionary move by the U.S. and will have “no reason” to make concessions itself, according to Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center.
“The Iranians did not agree to de-escalate the program in order to get the Biden administration to release the frozen funds. Therefore, there is no reason to think they will do it after the money is released. They cheated on every agreement with the U.S., the UN and the [International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] since 2002,” Bryen told the DCNF. “Iran has no reason to think it should change its behavior — it is getting paid for nothing.”
Iran and other foreign nations are likely to see the Biden administration’s $6 billion transfer as evidence that the U.S. is willing to pay “ransom” to its adversaries in exchange for American hostages, increasing the likelihood that more hostages will be captured, according to Taleblu and Bryen.
“This is a reminder that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ hostage deal with Tehran given its demonstrated capability and intent to engage in hostage diplomacy,” Taleblu said. “Worse, the message this sends Tehran’s partners… is clear. Washington can be extracted and American citizens now have both targets and price tags on their head.”
“This is likely to make people in other countries think the U.S. is not interested in what happens inside Iran, but simply wants its people back and will pay ransom… expect to see more kidnappings,” said Bryen.
Mohsen Rezaee, a senior officer of the IRGC, threatening to take 1,000 American hostages in exchange for billions from the US@POTUS underestimates the risks of the #IranRansomDeal for Americans. It will embolden the regime in Iran and its allies in the new, rising axis of evil. pic.twitter.com/eFEc7xppKW
— Sarah Raviani (@sarahraviani) August 11, 2023
Republican presidential hopefuls Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence echoed this sentiment and stated that while they were grateful that the five American prisoners had been freed, the U.S. made a show of weakness by giving in to “blackmail and exploitation” from Iran.
“While I welcome the release of American hostages, the American people should know that Biden has authorized the largest ransom payment in American history to the Mullahs in Tehran,” Pence said on Twitter Friday. “China and Russia, who are also holding Americans hostages, now know the price has just gone up.”
“Biden is shamefully caving to Iran’s blackmail and extortion. Rewarding Iran for taking Americans hostage incentivizes more hostage-taking,” DeSantis said on Twitter Friday. “Biden must stop obsessively pursuing disastrous deals that endanger our security. It is time to stand up to Iran with maximum pressure and roll back Iran’s malign influence.”
The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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