Emad Shargi, one of the Iranian-Americans traded by Biden for $6 billion and for multiple Iranian agents in the United States, did a 60 Minutes interview in which he said that, “Hostage-taking didn’t start with us and it won’t end with us. It is incumbent upon us in the United States and in Europe to come up with policies that stops innocent people being taken as hostages. And those policies need to be stronger than sanctioning somebody.”
The most obvious thing is what Iranian-Americans resist, for obvious reasons, which is a travel ban to Iran. As well as to any country that makes a habit of taking Americans hostage to trade for their people. Like Russia. And possibly China. Make it illegal for Americans to travel to Iran and suddenly the ayatollahs will have more of a problem finding hostages.
And the alternatives to that are what short of military intervention?
We could do what the Iranians do, which is take a few Iranian regime figures or their families who are visiting the United States, ship them to Gitmo, and then trade them for the hostages.
Beyond that we have no meaningful options.
I sympathize with Shargi, but he was a dual citizen of Iran and America. Dual citizenship with an enemy state shouldn’t even be legal. He spent a whole lot of time in Iran and then when he was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured, we had to trade Iranian regime agents and $6 billion.
There’s never a particularly good answer here. Back during the days of the Roman Empire, all one had to say was Civis Romanus Sum, I am a Roman Citizen, and you had to answer to the Empire. Teddy Roosevelt offered the Jihadis of his day a simple ultimatum when an American was taken hostage, “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.” Under Czarist rule, the United States struggled to defend the rights of Jewish Americans who visited Russia.
Either you’re willing to use force or serious economic leverage to assure the safety of Americans. Since we’re not willing to do either one, we can at least stop incentivizing the taking of hostages.
Negotiating with terrorists only ends one way.