OpinionIran in the World PressIran, its hostages and the West

Iran, its hostages and the West

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ImageWall Street Journal – REVIEW & OUTLOOK: The folly of expecting good faith from Iran's hostage-taking rulers
The Wall Street Journal

The folly of expecting good faith from Iran's hostage-taking rulers

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

ImageIran's big news yesterday is that the government will formally kill five people who participated in June's pro-democracy rallies. Consider, though, the implications for the West's peace-brokers of the case of Frenchwoman Clotilde Reiss.

It is now 20 weeks since Ms. Reiss was arrested while trying to leave Iran and 12 weeks since she was released to the French Embassy "to await her return to France," in the words of President Sarkozy. She's still waiting.

This week, the Islamic Republic resumed legal proceedings against her. Iran has refused to let her leave the country, and the French have complied. But by delivering her to an Iranian court for proceedings this week, Mr. Sarkozy is gambling with the 24-year-old's life. Coming from a politician who has offered stern denunciations of Tehran's nuclear programs, one has to wonder how that decision was made.

In its 30 years, the Islamic Republic has used assassination squads, fatwas, terrorism and hostage-taking as tools of its war with the West. A nearly unbroken string of outrages connects the taking of the U.S. embassy in 1979 to the death sentence demanded for writer Salman Rushdie in 1989 to, more recently, the grabbing of British sailors in 2007. Add to that the detention and trial of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi earlier this year, the 12-year prison sentence meted last month to Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakshsh and, most recently, the charges of espionage leveled against the three American backpackers who stumbled across the Iranian border in July.

Ms. Reiss's ordeal is merely of a piece of this. But it ought to be an instructive piece, particularly as Iran's nuclear ambitions come closer to realization. That's the real significance of this week's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran's formerly secret uranium enrichment facility near Qom, which the agency concluded had no possible relevance to any purported civilian power program. Once Iran goes nuclear, the whole world becomes its hostage.

For too long the West has responded to these various outrages by offering Iran little more than meek compliance, plus a clean slate the moment any one crisis is resolved. Now President Barack Obama is again beseeching Iran to take the nuclear deal offered to it last month. Nobody should expect Iran's leaders to show good faith. Not when their days are spent executing protestors and abusing the likes of Clotilde Reiss.

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