The Iranian regime has lately been collecting hostages: Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray from New Zealand, detained in July 2022, Johan Floderus, a European diplomat from Sweden detained in April 2022, and Bernard Phelan from France detained in October 2022.
This escalation in hostage-taking of Europeans by Iran's regime should not come as a surprise: the Belgian government last year proposed and ratified legislation that paved the way to transfer terrorists who have been convicted abroad back to Iran. The so-called treaty between the Belgian government and the Iranian regime was designed to secure the release of Iranian diplomat-terrorist Assadollah Assadi.
Assadi was arrested in 2018 for plotting to bomb a huge rally held outside Paris, organized by an Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Last year, Assadi was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court for masterminding the terror plot. Had it been successful, it could well have been the worst terrorist incident in modern European history.
Even though Iran is a party to the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, the Islamist regime has long violated it, as it has other commitments, by taking foreign hostages as pawns to extract economic concessions and achieve geopolitical and financial gains.
The Iranian regime scored the biggest victory in its hostage-taking investment just days ago on September 11, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America, when the Biden administration paid $6 billion and released a handful of Iranian nationals who are serving prison sentences in the US, in exchange for the release of five Iranian-Americans who were imprisoned in Iran. That comes to more than a billion dollars per person— not a bad haul for five captives.
The most unattractive part is that, as an Iranian security official boasted, the sentences for the five Iranian-Americans were about to end anyway. We can now expect the Iranian regime to arrest or abduct more Americans anywhere it can. Collecting hostages is now big business. Other hostile governments will most likely be tempted to abduct Americans, as well.
Incidentally, Iran was found guilty of having provided "assistance" to the 9/11 attackers and ordered to pay the for those attacks and ordered to pay billions of dollars to the families of the victims.
Thanks to the Biden administration's continual appeasement of the Iranian regime, the mullahs have also rapidly advanced their nuclear weapons program, increasing the enrichment of uranium to 84%, just a shade below the 90% level needed for nuclear weapons. Secret attempts by the Biden administration to reach an interim deal with the mullahs have threatened to add not only an estimated $100 billion into Iran's economy, but also, worse, to catapult an Iranian nuclear menace onto the world.
As Senator Mitt Romney recently stated:
"If we're paying a billion dollars per kidnapped individual, then you're going to see more kidnappings. That's why you don't negotiate with terrorists, that's why you don't negotiate with kidnappers. The idea of basically paying to release, in this effect, a hostage is a terrible idea. Remember back in the Reagan years, we had — was it — guns for hostages, that was the story, remember that? This is a billion dollars for a hostage."
Senator Tom Cotton called the action "shameful":
"First Joe Biden used 9/11 as an excuse to flee Afghanistan. Now he desecrates this day by paying ransom to the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism. Shameful."
Iran's rulers, however, understandably view this windfall as a huge success. The indispensable website MEMRI released a report titled "Iranian Regime Policy: Arresting Westerners And Releasing Them In Exchange For Financial And Political Gain," which cites an Iranian security official who bragged in August, 2023:
"This exchange operation is in fact one of the most successful and effective negotiation [efforts] ever to happen to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In essence, we released a few Iranian prisoners in exchange for some prisoners whose sentences were about to end, and, on the other hand, we succeeded in releasing billions of dollars of our blocked resources without committing to anything else."
The Iranian security official also boasted to Fars News -- which is affiliated with Iran's terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) -- that "this sum of money [$6 billion] that was released to Iran this time is four or five times greater than [the amount released] the last time," a reference to September 7, 2016, when former President Barack Hussein Obama transferred $1.7 billion in cash to the leaders of the Iranian regime.
After Obama transferred the $1.7 billion to the Iranian regime to release five Iranian-American prisoners, the theocratic establishment became more emboldened than ever. Iranian Vice President for Economic Affairs Mohsen Rezaee told Iran's Channel 2 in 2021 that he would capture 1,000 Americans, to earn the regime a trillion dollars by demanding $1 billion ransom for each hostage.
Ayelet Savyon, director of MEMRI's Iran Studies Project and the author of the hostage report, pointed out:
"This success was the basis for the practice's continued use by Iran, and Iranian officials have in recent years recommended several times that Americans or Britons be taken hostage and released in exchange for billions of dollars to boost the Iranian economy or for political gains from the Western countries."
Saeed Ghasseminejad, Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News this month:
"The Trump administration secured prisoner releases without ransom payments, relying instead on just swaps. While exchanging people who have been guilty of nefarious activities such as sanctions-busting and proliferation with innocent American hostages is not ideal, it is still a better option than paying ransom."
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated as a terrorist organization by the US Department of State, will most likely be the first beneficiaries of any extra revenues and Biden's $6 billion gift. The Iranian regime will likely use additional funds to capture more Americans, deliver weapons to Russia and strengthen its own military. Increased revenues will also allow the IRGC and Khamenei to crush more easily any domestic protests against their government. The other priorities of Iran's regime are to "export the revolution," and regional military domination. Targeted for this project are Yemen, Syria, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Latin America, Lebanon and Iraq -- and strengthening the regime's militias and terror groups. America and Israel are presumably being fattened up for eventual extermination.
That is what $6 billion has bought us. And the "Iran Nuclear Deal," which will enable the Iranian regime legitimately to have as many nuclear weapons as it likes, is not even dead.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu