How has Barack Obama’s “unclenched fist” policy toward Iran worked thus far? About as well as we predicted. After three hikers got lost traversing Iraqi Kurdistan and wandered across the Iranian border, Tehran has openly suggested that the Islamic Republic will try the three for espionage:
An Iranian lawmaker and member of parliament’s National Security Committee rejected the suggestion the Americans were tourists and said authorities were investigating whether to charge them with espionage.
“Surely we can say that they came as spies,” said Mohammad Karim Abedi, a hard-line lawmaker, speaking on Iran’s state-run Al-Alam TV. “The concerned authorities will decide whether they were spies or not. If it is proven that they were spies, the necessary legal procedures will be sought against them.”
“The U.S. forces are trying to leave some security elements behind, after leaving Iraq,” Abedi added. “It’s unacceptable to penetrate Iran’s borders this way. … We condemn this.”
He sought to compare the matter with a case involving British military personnel seized by Iran in March 2007 after Tehran said they had entered Iranian waters from Iraqi territory. The 15 sailors and marines were held for nearly two weeks, and some were paraded on Iranian television to deliver supposed confessions of trespassing.
The better parallel is with Roxana Saberi. The mullahcracy arrested Saberi earlier this year, claiming that she had committed journalism without permission as well as violated a morals law by buying alcohol. The Iranians kept her until last month, when they traded Saberi for a handful of Quds Force members held for the last two years by the US in Iraq.
This time, the leverage for whatever bargain Iran will demand next literally walked into their hands. The Iranians know the value of Americans when they have them in their custody; the Obama administration all but set the price with the Saberi trade. Kim Jong-Il was happy enough with a visit from Bill Clinton and an apology for the trespasses committed by two journalists, but the Iranian mullahs will hold out for a better bargain.
What will Obama trade to get these three back into US custody?