The Obama administration, the mainstream media and Democrats more generally vastly underestimate the potency of the photos and videos showing our Navy sailors on their knees with hands behind their heads as they are taken into custody by the Iranians. It is the perfect embodiment of what many Americans see as the humiliation suffered by the United States under this president as our adversities defy us and take advantage at every turn. To then have the utterly tone-deaf Secretary of State John Kerry insist that we did not apologize, but then publicly thank Iran, is even worse. And to top it off, we have film of our sailors held captive, compelled to apologize. The sole female sailor apparently was compelled to don a head covering.
This, according to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, is what a successful Iran policy looks like. No wonder Donald Trump, who speaks to the rage Americans feel about our declining respect in the world, is striking a chord.
Iran released a set of videos of U.S. sailors who were released Wednesday after being captured and detained overnight, raising questions about whether the country’s hard-line military force mistreated the Americans or violated international law by using them for propaganda purposes.
One video, broadcast on Iranian television and released world-wide, showed several Americans kneeling, with their hands clasped behind their heads. Another showed a U.S. service member speaking to a questioner, admitting wrongdoing and apologizing.
Obama administration officials have said their initial determination is that the 10 sailors were treated well and with respect after Iranian forces detained their two small Navy boats in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday. But the videos depicted questionable actions by Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Geneva Conventions, which govern military conflicts, ban the practice of parading prisoners for purposes of “insults” and propaganda.
The White House won’t dream of making a fuss, not when it so desperately wants to lift sanctions on Iran and push forward on the Iran nuclear deal, the very deal that has emboldened Iran to engage in stunts like this one. Oh, the administration is going to be “looking into the videos and would respond if the U.S. determined that the sailors were treated inappropriately.” Don’t hold your breath.
This is a propaganda bonanza for Tehran, one that it will exploit to the hilt to make clear to its allies and those it seeks to intimidate that the United States is weak, unreliable and useless. It furthers their ambitions in the region and demoralizes those resisting Iranian aggression. For countries and individuals on the fence (e.g. the Sunni tribes), the message is clear: You really want to stick your neck out for the Americans?
Bizarrely, Kerry thinks this shows how terrific our new relationship with Iran is because, you know, we got our people back. By continuing to act in effect as a PR flack for Tehran, Kerry invites further aggression and endangers our own troops and those of our allies. Be prepared to see Iran’s conduct become infinitely more audacious once it has pocketed more than $100 billion in sanctions relief.
Republicans at home have every reason to point to this incident as a vivid demonstration of the end result of the policy of appeasement and retreat under the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy. Clinton, fighting for her life in the Iowa caucuses, is not about to criticize the president from the right. But Republicans should not be shy about holding the administration accountable for a foreign policy that really does hold us hostage to the whims of the mullahs.
We have come full circle. In 1980, it was the news coverage of Americans held hostage in Tehran that helped doom the reelection chances of an ineffectual president. Now the incumbent president’s foreign policy architect runs for a “third term” on her experience — as we see photographic evidence of our capitulation to Tehran. The problem, however, for Republicans is plain: Who is the Ronald Reagan to rescue the country from this demoralizing tailspin?
As the presidential race plays out, Republicans in Congress should hold hearings and promptly vote on new sanctions against Iran for its illegal missile tests, support for terrorism, military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, continued imprisonment of Americans (including The Post’s Jason Rezaian) and its brutalization of its own people. Democrats in the House and Senate who claim to be “profoundly” concerned about Iran need to match their votes with their rhetoric. If once again they choose to circle the wagons around a feckless White House and block sanctions, the voters can hold them responsible in 2016, 2018 and 2020. And really, if they don’t vote when it matters, they should stop with the crocodile tears — and let those prepared to do something about Iran take charge.