A Long-Awaited Release

Ryan Mauro is a fellow with the Clarionproject.org, the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel. He can be contacted at ryanmauro1986@gmail.com.


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Iran has finally freed two American hikers it has held as spies since July 2009, just in time for Ahmadinejad to brag about how reasonable he is during his address to the U.N. General Assembly. The Iranian President will hail their release as a conciliatory gesture to the U.S., skipping over the fact that they were completely innocent and never should have been arrested in the first place.

The three hikers were Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, who is engaged to Bauer. They were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan when, according to the Iranian government, they went across the border. The group says that if they did, it was a mistake. They were held as American spies. Shourd was released last year after she went on a hunger strike and a $500,000 bail was posted. The regime held onto Fattal and Bauer, and on August 20, sentenced them to eight years in prison.

Ahmadinejad spoke in favor of giving them a minimal punishment, and there was speculation that they’d be released at the end of Ramadan. The judiciary, stocked with opponents of Ahmadinejad, shot down the talk and they remained in custody. Supreme Leader Ali Khomenei, locked in a power struggle with Ahmadinejad, is assumed to be behind the challenge to him. Ali Alfoneh, an expert on Iran with the American Enterprise Institute, said that Khomenei “really wants to humiliate Ahmadinejad before the U.N. visit” by preventing their release.

Ali Nourizadeh of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies agreed. He said that Ahmadinejad loves media attention, and sought to be greeted by crowds of American reporters competing to interview him about their release as he arrived in the country. “Khamenei deprived him and did not allow him to enjoy the benefit and also to have the credit,” he said.

Last week, Ahmadinejad announced that the two would be given a “unilateral pardon” and, because of his goodwill, they’d go free. The judiciary, loyal to Khomenei, immediately said that his words were meaningless. He did not have the authority to order their release, the body said. Ahmadinejad either won the struggle or a compromise was reached. The day before his address to the U.N., the Omani government posted a $500,000 bail for each prisoner, and its officials escorted Fattal and Bauer as they left Evin Prison.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim Brotherhood front that has received Iranian financing, took credit. The organization took part in a delegation to Iran to ask for their release, and Executive Director Nihad Awad, playing into Ahmadinejad’s hands, said the U.S. was now obligated to return the friendly gesture. “We hope our government will now address the issue of Iranian citizens detained in the United States with the same spirit of compassion,” he said.

The power struggle within the Iranian government dramatically heated up since late last year, and will only become more hostile as parliamentary elections become nearer. In December, Ahmadinejad fired Foreign Minister Mottaki without consulting Khomenei so that he could replace him with someone from his camp. In April, the Intelligence Minister fired a supporter of Ahmadinejad, and so the Iranian president retaliated by sacking him. Khomenei demanded that he be re-instated.

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  • Chezwick_mac

    1) Friends, I despise Iran's mullah-ocracy and everything they stand for, but I have to wonder what the hell three young Americans were doing "hiking" in Iraqi Kurdistan in the first place. It's very, very possible that this is just a cover story. Having said that, I'm pleased with their release…even more so if they happen to have been on an intelligence-gathering mission.

    2) Does anyone actually know the fate of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani? Has anyone visited her in prison since the rescinding of her lapidation sentence? Even if she is still alive, one must be aware that Iranian women accused of immorality are routinely raped by prison guards.

    3) This idea of a "power struggle" inside Iran must be taken with a grain of salt. Institutionally and otherwise, the REAL power inside Iran is the Supreme Leader (Khameini). Ahmadinijad serves at HIS behest. Let's all remember the fate of former President Abol Hassan Bani Sadr, who barely escaped Iran with his life in the late 80s after running afoul of Khomeini.

    • SAM000

      Your understanding from the inside of the regime is exact, but there is an small difference between now and the time of Khomeini.

      Khomeini as supreme leader and founder of Supreme Leader and founder of Rep. Islamic was the Mullahs indisputable leader,
      You are right, with one word, Khomeini removed Bani Sadr.

      But, Khameneii was installed by Hashemi Rafsanjani, and HR was powerful in the Bazaar and he was very wealthy, but he was not Ayatollah, nor Grande Ayatollah, he is just an Hojatol-Islam which is like a corporal in front of a General.

      Khameneii was and is an Hojatol-Islam.

      From the beginning he was disputed by the clerics.
      Now, the Ayatollahs like Sane ii or Sistani (Iraq) reject him and the Hezbollahis say that Khameneii is a low ranked Mullah.

      The last uprising brought all these differences to the surface and the daily clashes amplifies the crackdown of the regime.

  • David M

    I've never understood how some people can be so stupid not to be able to distinguish between good and evil. The USA has the safest and best hiking places in the world and these people wanted to be as near to the world's worst country with an Islam+Communist+Nazi regime as possible.

    There was a rumor that these three Americans were lefties despising America and had fallen in love with Islamofascism and because of that resided in Syria. If that is right they deserved what they got. But if they had a mission against the Islamonazi republic of Iran, they deserve the best and a lot of appreciation for their sacrifice.

    As an Iranian citizen I've a strong opinion that the West should never trust any Muslim organization.
    They are the Fifth Column of jihad, sharia, Islamic terrorism and they should be treated as enemies. For my money Islamists are worse than Nazis and Communists.

    Iran and Saudi Arabia despise each other but they are allies against the West. The Shi'ites are as dangerous and fanatic as the Sunnis and they are the enemies of the West.

    There are many Iranian agents in the USA and they must be arrested and tried as spies and terrorists and I'm for capital punishment for terrorists.

  • sedoanman

    Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd announced that they will celebrate by going on another hike in the ME.

    • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

      When they cross the border, don’t forget to clench.

  • BS77

    So, after all, how was the hike? What kind of moron goes "hiking" anywhere in Iraq or Iran?
    They are lucky to be alive.

  • g_jochnowitz

    The hikers were Palestine Solidarity Movement acrivists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009%E2%80%932011_de
    Now that they have been released, they will hate Israel more than ever.

    • howdeydoodey

      damn acrivists! It would be pretty convenient for CIA operatives to pretend/infiltrate causes like the ISM don't you think?

      I don't believe for one second that they were just "freelance journalists" "hiking" in Iraq.

    • Chezwick_mac

      Well, that explains it. No doubt they're deeply indebted to the US government for all its behind-the-scenes efforts to secure their release. This is why – upon landing in Muscat – they confined their expressions of gratitude to the Sultan of Oman. True Americans!

      • tanstaafl

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

        • Chezwick_mac

          Amen.

    • Steve

      Thanks….when I saw they were from Berkeley I assumed they carried some form of Anti American virus. Please do a more in depth essay on this aspect of this story…Thanks.

  • MSMII

    Was this a $1 million dollar ransom AND a promise to the head of OPEC to not drill American oil resources? The cost of oil is currently around $85.92 per barrel, $1.56 per gallon. The rule of thumb has it that we should be paying about $2.56 per gallon at the pump. Why are we paying as if the cost per barrel were $143 not the $85.92 it is today?

    With the current price of $85.92 per barrel, the actual cost of the oil is $58.42. The cost of refining that is $11.17. The taxes, give to Caesar what is Caesars’, comes out to be $10.31. The marketing and distribution portion of this comes to $6.01 per barrel.

    The FTC feels that Price Gouging is afoot, and so do I. http://msmignoresit.blogspot.com/2011/09/price-of

  • mrbean

    This was a kidnapping and an extortion of 1 miilion dollars – a corrupt court case with bail used for exrtortion. SInce they got paid look for repeats.

    • SAM000

      1 Million of USD.!, this is a peanut for what the Iranian people paid for this shameful hostage taking.

      From their release till now that I'm writing 34 political prisoners were executed, during their custody, around 1000 executed.

      In Iraq, and Afghanistan, several hundreds of car bombings and shelling killed several thousands of civilians,
      American Soldiers were killed during these 2 years, too.

      You would say, what is the relationship between all these Mullahs terrorism and their 2 years of jail?, the Mullahs would execute and bomb anyway.

      The answer is, Obama's administration never bitched seriously these exaction under the pretext that "IRAN has the American hostages and we should not irritate the Mullahs till their liberation".

      Now, USA has paid a huge political ransom to Ahmadinejad, this ransom is from USA CREDIBILITY plus Iranian opposition.
      THIS IS CALLED APPEASEMENT WITH EXCUSE.

    • SAM000

      1 Million of USD.!, this is a peanut for what the Iranian people paid for this shameful hostage taking.

      From their release till now that I'm writing 34 political prisoners were executed, during their custody, around 1000 executed.

      In Iraq, and Afghanistan, several hundreds of car bombings and shelling killed several thousands of civilians,
      American Soldiers were killed during these 2 years, too.

      You would say, what is the relationship between all these Mullahs terrorism and their 2 years of jail?, the Mullahs would execute and bomb anyway.

      The answer is, Obama's administration never grumbled seriously these exaction under the pretext that "IRAN has the American hostages and we should not irritate the Mullahs till their liberation".

      Now, USA has paid a huge political ransom to Ahmadinejad, this ransom is from USA CREDIBILITY plus Iranian opposition.
      THIS IS CALLED APPEASEMENT WITH EXCUSE.

  • BLJ

    Should have left their worthless hides in Iran. How dumb can people be?

  • http://www.fx-exchange.com/ Bowmanave

    How many times have I seen this headline before? And now they're not going to re-access dioxin for cancer until a later date (ahem: indefinitely), but only non-cancer causing disease? That should bring it down to about 73 ppt exposure. Cancer effects would lower it to around 3 ppt. And how much is in this watershed, courtesy of Dow? Thousands, tens of thousands, and even a 1 million ppt. hit.

    The news needs to look into the new discharge permit Dow is about to receive from the state. They have applied for an increase in toxic discharge to the Tittabawassee, which will flow to all of our communities drinking water supplies. This permit will also grant a critical reclassification of their chemical waste incinerator to a Commercial Hazardous Waste Combuster for other industries.

  • Amused

    Just muslims up to their old tricks and an age old practice – kidnap and ransom . And if the ransom paid was in fact ,paid by the U.S. ? No problemo …how many hundreds of millions in frozen Iranian assets are sitting here in US banks ? ….let's make some deductions . The ransom and pain and suffering -for the parents ,NOT THE THREE KIDS THOUGH , there too stupid for even thinking of " a hike anywhere near the Iranian border " .

  • Eric Gisin

    What’s the story behind these three? Democracy Now did a bit on them, and they just made a statement calling for the US and Iran to release political prisoners. They referred to leonard peltier, so they are radical lefties.