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On his latest trip to New York, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made the usual rounds of think tanks and TV studios, and delivered the now-familiar mix of scare and snark. Amid an escalating conflict over sanctions with the U.S., about the only new proposal he managed to air was an exchange of prisoners. The Trump administration should dismiss that suggestion out of hand.

Four Americans are known to be held in Iran's prisons, and a fifth has been missing there since 2007. Iran claims that at least a dozen of its nationals are detained in the U.S. But there's no equivalence here. The detained Iranians are, by Zarif's own acknowledgment, accused of violating sanctions and have access to the processes of American law. The Americans in Iran are held on trumped-up charges of espionage--or bogus charges like "insulting" the Supreme Leader--and have little legal recourse. That Zarif is now offering them as part of a bargain confirms suspicions that the regime in Tehran regards these Americans simply as hostages.

It's not easy to argue in favor of leaving Americans in captivity anywhere, and especially in the hands of a regime that is known to torture prisoners. But the U.S. has a long-standing policy of not negotiating for hostages, and with good reason. Among other things, it encourages more hostage-taking, and there are tens of thousands of Americans within snatching distance of the Iranian regime and its proxy militias across the Middle East.

Editorial on 05/07/2019

Print Headline: No thanks, Tehran

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