The Corner

The American Pawns of the American Government

Yesterday Kathryn highlighted Naghmeh Abedini’s heart-wrenching congressional testimony. Her husband, an Iranian-American pastor, is being held in perhaps Iran’s deadliest prison, imprisoned simply because of his faith. I’ve discussed his case many times before (the ACLJ represents his family, and our own Jordan Sekulow testified alongside Mrs. Abedini), and I would say I’m stunned that our government would strike a nuclear “deal” with a country that is unjustly holding and torturing an American citizen, but this administration has a pattern of leaving Americans behind.

The administration’s latest line of argument, that it can’t include wrongly imprisoned Americans in the nuclear talks — because it would be bad for the imprisoned Americans — is beyond the pale. Yesterday, the same day Mrs. Abedini testified, Senator Mike Crapo questioned Wendy Sherman, a principal negotiator of the Iran deal, about Pastor Saeed. After explaining all the ways the administration was raising Pastor Saeed with the Iranians, she said they weren’t part of the actual nuclear talks because, “Quite frankly, we don’t want them to become pawns in the negotiation.”

In the game of chess, pawns are easily sacrificed for the sake of larger strategic goals. If anyone has turned Pastor Saeed into a pawn, it’s our own government.

Sherman continued, saying “Iran should free these Americans because it is the right thing to do. It is the humanitarian thing to do.”

Yet this is the same administration that is — according to its own fact sheet on the Iran deal — pledging to “facilitate humanitarian transactions” with Iran (within the nuclear deal) without apparently demanding the slightest “humanitarian transaction” in return.

Sherman has been down this road before. A former social worker and director of EMILY’s List, she made her foreign-policy debut near the top of the diplomatic food chain as State Department counselor under Madeleine Albright, where she promptly participated in utterly fruitless negotiations with North Korea. Foreign Policy recalls the spectacle:

The talks advanced so far that North Korea agreed to a moratorium on new missile testing and sent a senior military officer on an official visit to the United States for the first time. Albright reciprocated by traveling to Pyongyang in October 2000, making her the most senior U.S. official to visit North Korea since the end of the Korean War.

It was a memorable trip. After one particularly long day of negotiations, then-leader Kim Jong Il brought Albright, Sherman, and the American negotiators to a cavernous Pyongyang soccer stadium for a synchronized dance performance that ended with thousands of North Koreans forming themselves into a giant image of the country’s Taepodong missile. Years later, Sherman recalled complimenting Kim on the spectacle.

And how do you think Ms. Sherman — our lead negotiator with Iran — describes herself? As a “community organizer.”

The Persians invented chess, so perhaps the Iranians can explain to the community organizer across the table the rules of the game. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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