US President Joe Biden’s deal with Iran that unlocked $6 billion in frozen funds in Tehran to bring five imprisoned Americans home created the kind of terrifying optics and an opening for his enemies. at home that a politically weak president cannot afford.
However, it’s also an example of the kind of thorny dilemma that only presidents face in their lonely Oval Office perch and the way they often have to juggle humanitarian concerns with geopolitics and domestic politics. considerations for which there are no easy
After all, the United States does not deal with its well-intentioned friends to free hostages or wrongfully detained Americans.
Enemies of the US such as Iran, Russia, Venezuela or the Taliban – with whom Washington has in recent years exchanged for prisoners – drive more difficult bargains and know how to use pressure on politics for concessions that may be difficult to justify in front of a hostile political audience at home.
There is no perfect deal the release of imprisoned Americans and the deal with Iran are particularly divisive. But a president should consider if they have the power to save imprisoned citizens from the horrors of prisons in places like Iran and Russia and if they are negligent if they choose not to release them for domestic for political or geopolitical reasons or for fear of being motivated. enemies of the US. In this way dealing with US enemies can be a sign of political strength rather than weakness.
But the price for Biden to repatriate five Americans in a deal facilitated by Qatar was a flurry of claims from Republicans that played into their narrative that he was weak, losing his critical skills and softened by a sworn enemy of the US.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, for example, plans later on Monday to criticize the president for an initiative that will “incite terrorism throughout the Middle East,” and show China that it can profit from appeasing the U.S., he said. to a senior campaign official. This is despite the fact that administration officials insist that the frozen Iranian currency used in the deal can only be paid for humanitarian purposes.
Criticism from the likes of former President Donald Trump and Pence has been politicized in the context of their presidential campaigns — and ignored their own deals to liberate the American people.
In 2019, Trump engineered a prisoner swap with Iran to release Xiyue Wang, a US citizen accused of being a spy. Trump also personally welcomed three Americans back from North Korea in 2018 after a deal that appeared to be a quid pro quo for a later summit with dictator Kim Jong Un that turned out to be little more than a giant photo-op. Yet Trump’s deals, like Biden’s, also reunite Americans with their long-suffering families.
Some Biden critics will also use the latest deal to create a political kerfuffle to sabotage any attempt by the administration to revive a nuclear deal with Tehran that Trump has scrapped.
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