President Joe Biden’s decision to trade $6 billion for five American citizens unlawfully detained in Tehran isn’t just the largest hostage ransom payment in American history—it’s also the second phase of an unacknowledged agreement with Tehran that strengthens the ayatollah’s position in the Middle East and frees the regime to cross the nuclear weapons threshold at a time of its choosing. Americans need to brace themselves for the consequences of both realities.
What would normally be a celebratory welcome home for our fellow Americans is now overshadowed by the methods used to win their release and the implications of a foreign policy bent on appeasing the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. That the White House announced this deal during the August congressional recess was no coincidence. Emergency hearings cannot be held. Resolutions of disapproval cannot be fast-tracked. President Biden has successfully evaded the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which requires him to notify Congress of any agreement with Iran related to its nuclear program before lifting sanctions.
If Biden’s malpractice was confined to paying enormous sums to win the freedom of American hostages, the ramifications would be bad enough. In 2015, President Barack Obama agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion for the release of four Americans as part of the broader negotiations over the first Iran nuclear deal. Predictably, Iran took more hostages in the months and years thereafter, believing it could get an even better price from a future U.S. president. The Trump administration turned to pressure instead of ransoms and won the release of two hostages without paying a dime. But under Biden, ransom payments have returned—at nearly three times the cost. While the Obama administration paid $425 million per American in 2015, the Biden administration has agreed to pay $1.2 billion.
History teaches us that Iran will only be emboldened by this swap, taking additional Americans hostage in the months and years to come. But unfortunately, that may be the least of our problems. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision earlier this year to seize Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich represented a significant escalation in Russia’s own hostage-taking playbook. Rather than immediately pressuring Russia to release Gershkovich, President Biden has allowed him to sit in prison while the U.S. waits to hear Putin’s list of demands. And after last week’s Iran trade, the price for Gershkovich undoubtedly went up considerably.