Max, the decision to release a large batch of Iranian backed terrorists, especially now, is, quite frankly, bizarre, when viewed from the perspective of our Iran policy, assuming we have one. Your recent observation on Afghanistan is apt in this context as well: “Unfortunately, I’m not sure Obama himself knows which is the strategy and which is the head fake. He seems fundamentally ambivalent about the war in Afghanistan — as he is about the war on terror and most other military endeavors — and that ambivalence is reflected in the form of policy incoherence.” As ambivalent and incoherent as Obama is on Afghanistan, the administration’s herky-jerky moves on Iran (e.g., hints one day of a John Kerry visit, tough talk from Obama on human rights the next day, and not very crippling sanctions suggested on another) are downright schizophrenic. Given all that, the release of Iranian-backed terrorists hardly helps the matter. It comes at the very same time that Obama is trying to convince domestic critics, allies, and, most importantly, Iran itself that he is going to get tougher with the mullahs. So how does the release of over 100 Iranian-backed terrorists look in that context?
Perhaps there are reasons why battlefield commanders in Iraq would like to proceed in this fashion. (Nevertheless, as Bill Roggio points out: “Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.”) Time will tell whether this is about “reconciliation” or whether it mounts up to just a distasteful and exceptionally lopsided ”prisoner swap,” as one military intelligence source put it.
However, there is a larger, looming problem: how to deal with the increasingly belligerent Iranian regime, which has ample reason already to doubt the resolve of the Obama administration. The symbolism of the release of a key terrorist (along with his many comrades) directly responsible for the deaths of Americans is awful. It was so bad, in fact, that it was done on New Year’s Eve in an effort, no doubt, to clamp down on domestic criticism. After the New Year’s revelry dies down, however, I expect that the release will be touted by Qazali’s Iranian backers, who will interpret this as not a cagey deal by U.S. commanders in Iraq but rather as another sign of squishiness by Obama. The mullahs and their henchmen will, doubtless, remain entirely unimpressed with the Obama administration’s promise to get “tough” with the worst of the worst within the Iranian regime.
Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a key Iranian-backed terror group:
The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.
It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:
In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered). So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.
One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?
When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.