Last weekend, five Americans were released by the Iranian regime. Each had been mysteriously jailed on either trumped up charges or for reasons unknown.
Why would Iran jail Americans who had done nothing wrong? Because taking hostages has worked very well for the Iranian regime in the past. So far, there has been no downside going back to the seizure of our embassy and taking our diplomats hostage from 1979-1981.
By taking hostages, Iran created leverage in gaining concessions from the United States. The worst that happens to Iran when it kidnaps Americans is it uses the opportunity to humiliate the United States while extracting praise.
Look at the incident last week where the Iranian regime kidnapped ten U.S. sailors. While a final investigation is underway and there remains questions to be answered, it appears that two of our small boats were legally transiting Iranian waters — what sailors call “innocent passage.” If there had been some real violation Iran could lodge a protest through diplomatic channels, or at most communicate to the vessels — called Combat Boats — directly to tell them to leave.
But to take the ships at gunpoint and kidnap our sailors? Under no scenario do they have the authority to do this. Iran thinks — correctly as it turns out — that there would be no price paid for sending photos around the world of innocent Americans on their knees offering apologies for non-existent transgressions. After the hostages were released the next day, our Secretary of State John Kerry said of the hostage takers, “I’m appreciative for the quick and appropriate response of the Iranian authorities.” He really said that.
This is insane. Iran should be apologizing for its actions and promise to never do it again. They won’t because they fear nothing from this administration. The nuclear deal they struck with the Obama administration is the equivalent of a bully stealing a little kid’s lunch money and getting an apology from his victim. America should be demanding Iran obey the laws like every other nation. Inexplicably, we do not.
It isn’t just the U.S. that Iran commits violations against. In 2007, the Iranians kidnapped 15 UK military personnel in the Persian Gulf, coercing them to apologize for, well that wasn’t quite clear. No matter. The point was to show how powerful Iran is by humiliating the West.
Just last year, an Iranian firm sued the shipping company, Maersk, and obtained a judgment against it by an Iranian appeals court. Without formally notifying Maersk of the judgement, the Iranian government decided the most prudent action was to file a motion in international court like any rational party in a legal proceeding.
Just kidding. They skipped the remaining legal proceedings and began shooting at the next Maersk ship that happened by and forced it into port under threats of sinking the vessel. Imagine the plot of the movie Captain Phillips, except the pirates are running a country of over 75 million people. This Iranian regime acts like the neighborhood guy in the wifebeater shirt who is always hammered. Everyone fears he will kill a family in a drunk driving accident and prays it will not be theirs.
Expect this outlaw regime to continue to act in a provocative, negligent manner. Whether it is more hostage taking or provoking a military exchange that ends in casualties in the Persian Gulf, remember that this is Standard Operating Procedure for the Iranian regime. There will undoubtedly be calls for diplomacy, but it is difficult to have diplomatic relations with a nation that doesn’t respect diplomacy. The U.S. could invite them for a productive discussion at our embassy in Iran, but they seized that, too.
Michael James Barton is the founder of a consulting firm, Hyatt Solutions. He worked on trade issues on Capitol Hill and served at the Department of Defense and the Homeland Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. He can be reached at Scheduling@HyattSolutions.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @MichaelJames357.