Blackmail is Iranian regime’s modus operandi
If you think that groups such as Daesh are the only ones who kidnap innocent people for money, well think again. You might be surprised to know that Iran resorts to the same methods. The British government has revealed that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif had asked it for £400 million ($491 million) in exchange for him intervening to help free British-Iranian dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained in Iran on spying charges since 2016.
The British government, which exposed the negotiations, said in a statement: “We have never accepted, and will never accept, any suggestion that the UK should pay Iran for the release of its nationals who have been arbitrarily detained. They must be unconditionally released. The UK will not be blackmailed, and the Iranian Foreign Minister’s comments will further discredit the Iranian government.”
Indeed, Zarif, with some of the usual fiddle-faddle his listeners are accustomed to, reasoned that his request would allow him to convince the Iranian court that Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release was an exchange for old money owed by the UK to Iran, with accumulated interest. Because of the scarcity of funds, Tehran imprisons, assaults and kidnaps people to get ransoms.
Let us not forget that the blackmails practiced by the Iranian authorities take various forms. It has seized a number of ships and tankers, asking for political or material gains for releasing them.
This has been Iran’s modus operandi since the 1979 revolution, as its first “diplomatic” act was the detention of 52 employees of the US Embassy in Tehran for 444 days. Subsequently, it carried out several kidnappings through its Hezbollah organization, targeting Western civilians in Lebanon in the early 1980s and using them as bargaining chips. During Syria’s war, it has not hesitated to surround towns and bargain fighters against the local citizens. The notorious Evin Prison in Tehran abounds with detainees from the UK, Australia and other countries, with most of them being used as bargaining chips.
The notorious Evin Prison in Tehran abounds with detainees from the UK, Australia and other countries
In the context of this continuing series of bullying as a state policy, we do not rule out that Iran directly, or through its organizations in Iraq and Lebanon, has kidnapped US nationals — other than those of Iranian origin who are detained in its prisons — out of a belief that this will embarrass President Donald Trump electorally. Tehran hopes to force Trump into making concessions, such as backing out of economic sanctions or initiating negotiations involving the release of US detainees, just as it did with former President Barack Obama, who paid huge sums of money to Iran and signed the nuclear agreement with it.
This is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Iran and, if the world fails to send it strong messages of deterrence, it will continue to only respect force. That is why we do not see it daring to confront countries like Israel, instead hiding behind Hezbollah and its like.
- Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed