The U.S-Iran prisoner swap — another bad deal, but not scandalous

Iran and the U.S. have swapped prisoners. The mullahs reportedly have released four of our guys including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. We reportedly have released seven of theirs.

Swapping prisoners is something a nation occasionally does with its enemies. I think it’s almost unheard between non-enemy nations or entities.

Sometimes, prisoner swaps are scandalous. Releasing terrorists in exchange for a deserter like Bowe Bergdal is an example. So, in my opinion, are the lopsided deals Israel strikes with its sworn enemies in which hundreds of terrorists are released in exchange for one Israeli.

The exchange of seven Iranians for four Americans doesn’t strike me as scandalous, though there may be facts I’m not aware of that make it so. Iran, I assume, got the better of the deal, but the bad guys typically do in these cases.

It does strike me as borderline scandalous, though, that John Kerry is touting the deal as evidence of the fruit of the Obama administration’s capitulation to Iran on nukes:

Officials in Vienna said that the prisoner swap and the nuclear deal were related, but only loosely. Mr. Kerry clearly wanted to be able to tell many critics of the deal in Congress that he had gotten more than just the nuclear concessions; he wanted to make the case that the new channels of communication between Tehran and Washington were proving fruitful in other areas.

How “fruitful” is a deal in which they get seven prisoners back in exchange for four? That sounds like a negative return on the $150 billion or so we’re in the process of handing to the mullahs.

In this regard, it should be noted that Iran declined to release Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American business consultant who worked for a United Arab Emirates-based oil company and was seized in Tehran in mid-October. Obviously, the administration didn’t insist on his release, even though Iran would still have come out ahead numerically had Namizi been part of the trade.

In addition to releasing the seven Iranians — all of whom reportedly were in custody for sanctions violations — the Obama administration rescinded international arrest warrants on 14 other Iranians suspected of sanctions violations. The U.S. says, however, that none of the people released or let off the hook were involved in crimes of violence or terrorism.

If true, we can be thankful that Team Obama’s cravenness has limits that weren’t apparent in the Bergdahl deal.

The reactions of various Republican presidential candidates have been fairly predictable. The dovish Rand Paul said that the release is “a sign that we need to continue to try to see if negotiations will work.” I see it as a sign that this administration will continue to be outnegotiated.

So does Donald Trump. He stated that he’s “happy they’re coming back” but that Iran got the better of the deal. I’m no Trump fan, but I suspect he would have negotiated something more favorable.

Marco Rubio and Chris Christie said that Obama shouldn’t be negotiating with Iran. Rubio explained that “when you do deals like the Bergdahl deal and other things, you are incentivizing people to take Americans hostage and prisoner even if they’ve done nothing wrong.” True, though the likes of the Taliban and the Iranian regime have all the incentive they need to take American prisoners, with or without swaps.

That the administration should stop negotiating with Iran, as Rubio and Christie say, is true in about the same sense that an amateur gambler who has already lost ten of thousands of dollars at the tables should stop betting and go home. Unfortunately, Obama keeps negotiating for the same reasons the gambler keeps betting: (1) he knows he’s behind and wants to be able to tell the folks at home he came out at least even and (2) he’s compulsive.