I first saw the news break last night, though as all things with Iran, the initial details were very sketchy. A verdict had come in regarding Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian who has been held by the Iranians on espionage charges for an obscene amount of time. Later there was official confirmation and the verdict was guilty, possibly condemning the man to a decade or more in an Iranian prison. (Washington Post)

Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post correspondent in Tehran imprisoned for more than 14 months has been convicted in an espionage trial that ended two months ago, Iranian State TV has reported.

News of a verdict in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court initially came early Sunday, but court spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei did not specify the judgment. In a state TV report late Sunday, Ejei said definitively that Rezaian was found guilty.

But many details remained unknown. Rezaian faced four charges — the most serious of which was espionage — and it’s unclear if he was convicted of all charges. Rezaian and The Post have strongly denied the accusations, and his case has drawn wide-ranging denunciations including statements from the White House and media freedom groups.

The 1979 Iran hostage crisis lasted for 444 days so we’re now officially in the same territory with Rezaian. And this is the same regime that we’ve been involved in negotiation with for virtually that entire time with the Secretary of State becoming BFFs with some representatives of Tehran. While the question has been asked before, this verdict presents an opportunity to ask it yet again. How did we go through all of that time at the table with the Iranians and not arrange for Rezaian’s release? The original crisis in the 70s – a good portion of which I spent on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean waiting for Carter to make up his mind and do something – took place during the tenure of another president who was viewed as a weak sister by our global adversaries. Once Ronald Reagan was sworn into office the crisis ended almost immediately.

Surely we have some big sticks left in our bag which could be waved at Iran to convince them to come to an understanding. They are a local powerhouse, but still nothing compared to our capabilities. At this point we produce more oil than they do, so unlike the situation in the seventies it seems like we could threaten to shut down shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and cut off their financial lifeline. At least it’s something to consider. But nothing is going to change if we don’t have a leader who is actually respected, if not feared, in Tehran.

I don’t know if Jason Rezaian was actually doing some spying for us or not. It seems far fetched, but the fact is that everyone spies on us and we spy on everyone else. If Rezaian actually was one of our spooks, a deal should have been cut ages ago to set up a trade. We did it with the Russians for decades. And if he’s not then we needed to cut through all of this Iranian posturing and nonsense and convince them that it was in their critical best interests to turn the guy over or there would be a price to pay. We shouldn’t have needed to include his release as part of Kerry’s negotiations because it’s an issue which merited action on its own, but those talks were still an ideal opportunity to exert some leverage if no other path to a desirable resolution could be found.

I’m beginning to get used to the phrase, maybe Donald Trump was right after all. These guys are terrible negotiators and Mr. Rezaian is paying the price for it.