When the guy’s right, he’s right, especially the bit about Obama dealing from desperation. When your only options are bombing Iran, doing nothing, and making a terrible deal that can be spun as successful, and you’ve already ruled out the first two, you’re going to give up whatever you need to in order to make the third option viable.
You would think O might have insisted on making the prisoners part of the deal if only so that he’d have some tangible “win” to show Americans while Republicans and pro-Israel Democrats are screaming that he sold out the country. Bringing them home would be emotionally gratifying even as a footnote to a nuclear capitulation that stinks on ice. If nothing else, having four very grateful Americans doing a media tour to thank him for saving their lives would be nice PR to counterprogram all the heat he’s going to take from hawks here and abroad. (Obama loves the theater of prisoners returning home too, as any president would. Remember his triumphant Rose Garden presser with Bowe Bergdahl’s parents before the country found out the truth about why Bergdahl had gone missing?) It makes so much sense that we have to assume Kerry did raise this issue with Javad Zarif and the Iranian team and got a big fat no in return. In fact, we don’t have to assume:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stepped to the sidelines for a private conversation at a security conference in Germany on Sunday, according to a senior State Department official…
“Secretary Kerry pressed for the Iranians to work cooperatively with us in our efforts to help United States citizens Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini to return to their families,” [a U.S.] official said…
Hekmati and Abedini could receive reduced sentences, Zarif said in an interview less than two weeks ago from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
That was February 2014. Nearly 18 months later, nada. And U.S. officials insist they’ve been trying:
Senior White House officials on Tuesday said that negotiators had discussed the fate of Americans detained and missing in Iran, and insisted they are doing “whatever we can” to help bring the Americans home.
The officials said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Tuesday about the prisoners.
“This is a moment where Iran has an important opportunity to make a humanitarian gesture to bring Americans home,” an official said.
Either Iran turned us down cold, even though releasing the prisoners is as small a gesture of goodwill as one could ask, or the prisoner release is being dangled as part of a potential grand bargain in which the U.S. would finally officially recognize Iran’s regime and Iran would provide the U.S. with some magic carpets or whatever it is that Obama and Kerry think they might get in return. “Assurances,” probably. Iran’s got all the assurances you could want.
Anyway, as I say, when the guy’s right, he’s right. And when he’s wrong, he’s very, very wrong.