Commentary Magazine


What the Hikers’ Bail Might Buy Iran

Yesterday, Iran freed the two imprisoned American hikers after someone paid $1 million in bail. Iran reportedly seized the hikers after they allegedly strayed into Iranian territory during a hike along the border in Iraqi Kurdistan. Ten years ago, I took that same hike and don’t see how it is possible to enter Iranian territory mistakenly, although my sympathy would be greater if the Iranians strayed into Iraqi territory to seize the hikers, as some speculate.

The $1 million bail for the hikers’ release, however, is problematic. Paying bail to Iran is little different than paying ransom to kidnappers, or rewarding terrorists for their actions.

Several years ago, terrorism analyst Matthew Levitt published a book on Hamas, which I was fortunate enough to review for the New York Sun. One of the more valuable sections regarded terrorists acknowledging the financial cost of their attacks. Salah Shehada, the founder of the Izz al-Din al-Qassim Brigades estimated, for example, that each of his groups’ attacks cost between $3,500 and $50,000 to execute. Hezbollah operates more cheaply: They estimated their attacks to cost between $665 and $1,105. A Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative received $2,210 for his attacks, while a Tanzim bomb maker received $7,000.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume each terrorist attack costs $5,000; after all, terrorist groups needn’t pay regular salaries or pensions because, it seems, the U.S. State Department is willing to do that for them. If we take the $5,000 figure, those who paid the bail may have just financed 200 attacks. It may be good to have our hostages home, but to celebrate their release is unfortunate without acknowledging the death sentences those who paid the bail just signed on innocent civilians elsewhere.