When it comes to Iran, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the arch appeaser. He has determinedly pursued a resurrection of the defunct nuclear deal, despite endless provocations from the theocratic regime. He has searched for ways to ease sanctions on the mullahs. Now he has surpassed himself by agreeing, in the words of former Vice president and presidential candidate Mike Pence, to authorize, presumably with President Biden’s backing: “the largest ransom payment in American history to the mullahs in Tehran.” In exchange for the release of around $6 billion in funds impounded by South Korea, Blinken has negotiated the release to house arrest in Tehran of five dual-nationality Iranian/American citizens, who have been held hostage by the mullahs for years. The five have not even been freed to return to the US. They are being held in an hotel in Tehran, ostensibly awaiting the implementation of all aspects of the deal, including the release from American jails of convicted Iranian criminals.

While the partial release of the American hostages is welcome, it is disgraceful that the US has agreed to reward the theocratic fascist regime for kidnapping and imprisoning innocent people on entirely bogus charges. The prisoner-swap deal follows in the footsteps of the Belgian Government’s agreement to free the Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his role in a plan to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris. Assadi and his three co-conspirators were tried in Belgium in 2021 for attempting to bomb a mass opposition rally at Villepinte, near Paris in 2018. According to the verdict in the Antwerp Court, Assadi was a senior agent of the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). He was using the cover of being a diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Vienna to enable him to plan a terrorist bomb attack that would have caused carnage on European soil, potentially killing hundreds of men, women, and children. 

Evidence from the Belgian prosecutor showed how Assadi had brought the professionally assembled 550gm TATP bomb on a commercial flight to Vienna from Tehran in his diplomatic bag and passed it, together with an envelope containing €22,000, to two of his co-conspirators. The court was told that Assadi had instructed them how to prime and detonate the device. A third co-conspirator was posted at the Villepinte rally as a lookout. The Iranian regime went into overdrive to secure Assadi’s release, claiming diplomatic immunity and when that failed, they seized a Belgian charity worker - Olivier Vandecasteele, accusing him of spying and sentencing him to 40 years imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and 74 lashes. The bogus charge and ludicrous sentence had the desired effect. The Belgians capitulated.

By succumbing to the Iranian regime’s outrageous hostage diplomacy, the Belgian government merely emboldened the mullahs to perpetrate further acts of terror in the EU, in the knowledge that they can ensure the release of their terrorists by the simple expedient of taking hostages and committing criminal blackmail. Antony Blinken’s prisoner-swap deal with the mullahs will exacerbate the problem even further. The mullahs know that hostage-taking works. Western appeasers always fold. Unfreezing $6 billion in assets held by South Korea under US sanctions, will not put bread back on the table for 85 million starving Iranians. Antony Blinken has argued that there will be tight restrictions on how the money can be spent by the mullahs. He said: “Iran will not be receiving any sanctions relief. Iran’s own funds would be used and transferred to restricted accounts such that the monies can only be used for humanitarian purposes, which, as you know, is permitted under our sanctions.” 

This, of course, is palpable nonsense. The Iranians are past masters at lying and cheating. They enthusiastically grasped President Obama’s deeply flawed nuclear deal in 2015, agreeing to all of its restrictive clauses, while secretly accelerating their clandestine work on the production of a nuclear weapon. When President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal in 2018 and imposed tough sanctions in his ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against the regime, the mullahs entered into illegal sanction-busting traffic with Moscow, supplying the Russians with Shahed-136 kamikaze drones with lethally explosive warheads, that hover over a target until instructed to attack. The suicide drones are particularly difficult to detect on radar and have been used by Putin to devastate Ukrainian civilian infrastructure. The Iranian regime has even deployed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel to Crimea to train the Russian military in their use. The IRGC has been designated as a terrorist organization by the Americans and heavily sanctioned by the EU and UK. 

The $6 billion windfall authorized by Biden and Blinken will certainly never be used for humanitarian purposes. Iran has sought for years to become the main player in Middle East Shi’ite politics, funding Bashar al-Assad’s brutal civil war in Syria, backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen, controlling the Shi’ia militias in Iraq, financing the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. $6 billion will go a long way in funding the mullahs’ proxy wars and international terrorism. Of course, the US has some history when it comes to dealing with Iranian hostage-takers. General Alexander Haig, who was US Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, famously said: “Then came the hostage crisis during which Carter did nothing to rattle the ayatollahs who hung tough until Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, when they suddenly backed down”. Haig knew that appeasement never works. He knew that the only way to counter the mullahs is from a position of strength. It is a lesson that President Biden and Antony Blinken need to learn.