President Obama’s efforts to achieve a detente with our longtime enemy, Iran, is paying off bountifully. It is with great pleasure that we can announce that today, the White House has convinced the Iranians to free the five Americans that they were holding prisoner as part of a swap. Returning home after a short checkup in Germany are Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent; veteran Sgt. Amir Hekmati, formerly of the 1st Marine Division, Pastor Saeed Abedini, and citizen Nosratollah Khosrawi. As a show of goodwill, the Iranians will also be releasing the fifth American held by them, student Mathew Trevithick, unconditionally as part of a separate transaction.
In exchange, the United States will be freeing seven Iranian prisoners who were arrested for violating sanctions – meaning financial crimes. The seven released were not held under any suspicion of terrorism or political reasons, as the right-wing will doubtlessly try to claim. The American prisoners being held in Iran were a favorite talking point of Republicans like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who relentlessly bashed President Obama for not having their freedom be part of the comprehensive nuclear deal, which they opposed anyway. At this point, President Obama could bring peace to the Middle East and they’d still find something to bash him for. The right-wing’s desperate attacks just shows how intimidated they are by his historic achievements.
Trump wasted no time in attacking the terms of the swap, eternally ungrateful for the President’s efforts. “They’re getting seven people, so essentially they get $150bn plus seven, and we get four!” said Trump, clearly disappointed his favorite talking point was now moot and possibly upset that seven is more than four. Perpetually incorrect Trump’s $150 billion sum refers to the amount of Iranian money that will be unfrozen once the terms of the nuclear deal is complete; the number is in fact $100 billion, and it is not related to this swap. The right-wing is obsessing over this money, saying that we are “giving” it to them, so let’s be very clear: that money is not ours, it is money the Iranians already had that has been frozen in bank accounts across the world, and it is not related to the prisoner swap.
It turns out that Washington and Tehran have been secretly negotiating this release for months. It is a huge win for America that illustrates just how successful the President’s Iran strategy has been. For today it was announced that Iran “had complied with all the major elements of that deal — shipping 98 percent of its low-enriched uranium out of the country, disabling a reactor that can produce plutonium, and dismantling more than 12,000 of the county’s centrifuges, which enrich uranium.”
Without firing any shots, without any invasion or death, the Iranian nuclear threat is neutralized and if we have not yet gained an ally; we have certainly lost an enemy. Just last week, the potentially volatile situation of the patrol boats that were seized by Iran was rapidly and peacefully resolved; this week, American prisoners are coming home. The value of diplomacy and negotiation cannot be overstated; the expensive violence and jingoistic dreams of foreign conquest that passes for foreign policy among the Republican Party profits nobody but themselves and their defense contractor lobbyists.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.