Iran takes more foreign hostages; Biden administration, EU stay silent

Iran most likely believes that detaining Western nationals will put pressure on the EU and the U.S. to accept its demands and seal the nuclear deal as soon as possible.

By Majid Rafizadeh, Gatestone Institute

The European Union appears excited that the nuclear talks have reopened again to revive the nuclear deal that will bring nuclear weapons to the “world largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Iran, and additional billions of dollars to the treasury of the country’s ruling mullahs and to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to practice more terrorism.

In the meantime, the Biden administration and the EU have remained silent in the face of the Iranian regime taking more hostages.

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence recently detained two French citizens. The Iranian authorities claimed that they arrested the two because they were planning to cause “chaos, social disorder, and instability”.

Iran’s judiciary spokesperson, Zabihollah Khodaian, also stated that a Swedish-Iranian national, Ahmadreza Djalali, has received a death sentence and will be executed. He was arrested in 2016 on the trumped-up charge of spying for a country that the Iranian regime wants to annihilate: Israel.

The ruling clerics bring vague charges against detainees. These accusations can be “national security crimes”, “moharebeh” (enmity against God), “ifsad fil arz” (sowing corruption) and “baghi” (armed rebellion). As Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran told the UN General Assembly:

“There are extensive, vague and arbitrary grounds in Iran for imposing the death sentence, which quickly can turn this punishment into a political tool.”

“In addition, the structural flaws of the justice system are so deep and at odds with the notion of rule of law that one can barely speak of a justice system. The entrenched flaws in the law and in the administration of the death penalty in Iran mean that most, if not all, executions are an arbitrary deprivation of life,” he added.

Taking hostages to pressure US, EU

The mullahs are ratcheting up hostage-taking for several reasons. To begin with, the regime most likely wants to gain more leverage, more concessions and obtain the upper hand in the ongoing nuclear talks.

The nuclear talks, which are being held in Vienna, have been dragging on for nearly a year; the regime seems desperate to revive the nuclear deal and have economic sanctions lifted.

It is facing a huge budget deficit, the unemployment rate and inflation are high, and Tehran is finding it extremely difficult to fund its network of militia and terror groups across the Middle East.

The Iranian regime most likely believes that detaining Western nationals will put pressure on the EU and the U.S. to accept its demands and seal the nuclear deal as soon as possible

Notably, the detention of the two Europeans came right before the European Union envoy and coordinator of the nuclear talks, Enrique Mora, met with Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, in Tehran.

An important demand by the Iranian leaders has been to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite branch, the Quds Force — which has the blood of many Americans on its hands — from the terrorist list.

By taking hostages, the ruling clerics want to pressure the Biden administration and the EU to accept all of their demands, in particular removing the IRGC from the terrorist list.

Claiming without explaining

In addition, the Iranian regime recently sentenced to death a Swedish-Iranian national, likely to put pressure on Sweden to release Iranian diplomat Hamid Nouri, who is on trial in Sweden. Nouri is the first Iranian diplomat under the Islamic Republic to be tried in a foreign country.

The Swedish authorities arrested Nouri in November 2019; he is believed to have been involved in the 1988 massacre where nearly 30,000 political prisoners were executed by the Iranian regime.

In July, after 21 months of investigation, prosecutors at Stockholm District Court issued an indictment against him. His trial began the following month; a verdict is expected this year.

The Iranian regime appears enraged by Nouri’s trial. Iran’s foreign ministry recently summoned the Swedish envoy to protest what it calls “the baseless and fabricated accusations that the Swedish prosecutor made against Iran during Nouri’s court case”.

Iran’s foreign ministry is basically saying that their diplomat is on trial based on false accusations (involvement in the 1988 massacre). They did not explain, however, what fabrications they were talking about. They just said that their diplomat should not be on trial.

The Iranian regime also has been known to hold foreign hostages as pawns for financial gain. The Obama administration, for instance, shipped $400 million in an unmarked plane to Iran for the release of four Iranian-American prisoners.

The Biden administration and the EU should not remain silent in the face of the Iranian regime taking more foreign hostages. The only language that all rogue and predatory regimes, including that of the mullahs, understand is the language of pressure. Why not try using it?