The Obama administration has left an American pastor behind.
In its quest for a “deal” with the hostile, jihadist Iranian regime, The Obama administration has thrown an American Christian, Saeed Abedini, under the bus – the latest American victim in the administration’s continual, naïve (at best) quest to bargain with Islamic radicals.
Let’s go to the scorecard: A part of this “deal,” Iran not only gets to keep its centrifuges (key equipment in the quest to build nuclear weapons) but is permitted to continue enriching uranium.
It also gets billions of dollars in sanctions relief and unspecified humanitarian aid from the West.
What does America get?
Iranian promises. Promises that they won’t enrich over a certain threshold and promises that it will dismantle a modest amount of previously-enriched uranium.
These promises would have been easier to believe had Iran taken at least one concrete step to demonstrate good faith -- by releasing an American pastor -- a U.S. citizen -- whom it has held and tortured for more than a year, tortured because of his Christian faith.
Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Idaho resident, last year received permission to enter Iran to help build an orphanage.
Shortly after his arrival, Iran’s radical Revolutionary Guard arrested him, threw him in one of Iran’s worst prisons, and tried and convicted him on trumped-up “national security” charges – charges that had nothing to do with national security and everything to do with his Christian faith.
Even after President Obama raised Pastor Saeed’s case directly to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran responded not by releasing Saeed but by transferring him to an even worse prison -- a prison full of murderers and rapists, where his life is in danger at every moment.
The Iranian regime rebuked the president of the United States, and we’re now supposed to believe it’s acting in good faith?
President Obama is now trying to spin our stunning act of weakness as a breakthrough for peace. In fact, we were so weak that (according to the administration) that the State Department did not even raise Pastor Saeed’s during the nuclear negotiations.
Fox News asked an administration spokesman why Pastor Saeed was not part of the agreement, and the spokesman responded: “The P5+1 talks focused exclusively on nuclear issues.”
This is self-evidently false. Even the administration’s own fact sheet on the agreement describes how the U.S. will not only ease the sanctions directly related to Iran’s nuclear program but also facilitate additional “humanitarian transactions” that are not related to the sanctions regime.
Why couldn’t we demand that Iran “facilitate” its own “humanitarian transaction” by releasing an American pastor (and all other Americans held in Iran) back to his wife and two young children?
This is an unconscionable betrayal and leaves the American people with no choice but to believe that Iran is unchanged – still our hostile enemy, ready to kill or imprison our people at every opportunity.
Iran’s record of wrongdoing is long and sordid.
Beginning with the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, moving through repeated terrorist attacks – from the deadly Marine Barracks bombing in 1983, to the Kobar Towers bombing in 1996, to the direct intervention of Iran’s Quds force against American forces in Iraq – and including ongoing deadly support for terrorists fighting American forces in Afghanistan, Iran has proven by its deeds and words that it is America’s enemy.
If Iran had released Pastor Saeed we would have at least one concrete action to give Americans confidence that this deal was anything other than a disaster. Instead, we are left with nothing but “commitments” from a regime that has proven itself committed only to killing and imprisoning Americans.
To make matters even worse, we have squandered a position of strength.
Iran was suffering under sanctions that were finally beginning to truly bite -- wrecking its economy and causing deep discontent within Iraq. This was our opportunity to drive a hard bargain, to reach a deal that didn’t depend solely on Iranian “commitments.”
But we squandered that opportunity and left an American behind.
The Obama administration has betrayed Pastor Saeed.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He also serves as a member of President Trump’s legal team. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.