Obama’s ransom payment to Iran

Canada, the U.S. and other Western countries have a long-standing policy not to pay ransom in exchange for the release of kidnapped citizens.

The reason is pretty straight forward – if Western governments started handing out cash in exchange for kidnapped citizens, pretty soon, every rouge state, terrorist group and criminal gang would start franchising in the kidnapping business.

Soon enough, it would no longer be safe to leave your home.

The policy is necessary, although at times painful. Canadians learned this the hard way earlier this year when two of our own were murdered by Islamist thugs in the Philippines after the Trudeau administration refused to pay the desired ransom.

It was difficult. But it was the right thing to do.

New information reported this week in the Wall Street Journal, however, suggests that the Obama administration has broken this cardinal rule.

We know the U.S. government made a $400 million payment to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, but the new report suggests the payment was contingent on the release of American hostages. A State Department spokesperson confirmed the timeline.

In a script that could have been written for a Hollywood movie, U.S. officials blocked an Iranian cargo plane filled with $400 million in cash from an airport in Switzerland until three American hostages were able to depart from Tehran.

It was a coordinated exchange, a textbook ransom payment.

The Obama administration insists the timing was coincidental, and that the payment wasn’t ransom – it was money the U.S. government owed to Iran. But even that rationale is problematic.

Nearly 40 years ago, the U.S. entered into an arms deal with Iran. Shortly thereafter, the Iranian government was overthrown by a radical group of Islamists. Those Islamists still rule Iran today.

Every U.S. administration since has deemed it too dangerous to complete the deal or issue a refund to this nefarious regime. Either response would enable Iran and its proxy terrorist groups to wreak havoc around the world.

President Obama is making an historical pivot in U.S. foreign policy. He’s not only turning a blind eye to Iran’s bad behaviour, but he’s also misleading the American public about his wheeling’s and dealings with Iran.

Contrary to White House spin, Iranian officials openly boasted about the exchange and called it a ransom.

And the story gets even worse.

The cash-filled Iranian cargo plane was operated by Iran Air – an airline sanctioned by the very same Obama administration for its involvement in smuggling weapons to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Also known as Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards unit is listed as a terrorist entity in Canada for its role in training, arming and bankrolling other terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban.

There is little doubt the $400 million will end up in the hands of terrorists, used to fund more murders, more arbitrary arrests and more demands for ransom.

Regardless of Obama’s rhetoric, this exchange sends a message that America does, in fact, negotiate with kidnappers and terrorists. The optics are terrible.

Obama, however, doesn’t seem to care. He doesn’t seem concerned about the rights and freedoms of Iranian people living under a cruel and oppressive regime. He doesn’t seem worried about the security and stability of the Middle East, particularly for America’s longstanding friend and ally, Israel.

President Obama, in his final year in office, cares about one thing. His legacy.

And it might be a legacy Americans live to regret.

This column appeared in the Sun papers on August 20, 2016