Negotiating with Terrorists
The Obama administration ignores a longstanding -- and life-saving -- policy.

As the Iranian government’s murderous repression of the Iranian people continues, critics right and left agitate over the deafening silence of an American president who, as a candidate, derided the Bush administration’s ambitious democracy promotion as too timid. They speculate as to why Barack Obama won’t speak out: Why won’t he condemn the mullahs? Is he daft enough to believe he can charm the regime into abandoning its nuclear ambitions? Does the self-described realist so prize stability that he thinks it’s worth abandoning the cause of freedom — and the best chance in 30 years of dislodging an implacable American enemy?

In truth, it’s worse than that. Even as the mullahs are terrorizing the Iranian people, the Obama administration is negotiating with an Iranian-backed terrorist organization and abandoning the American proscription against exchanging terrorist prisoners for hostages kidnapped by terrorists. Worse still, Obama has already released a terrorist responsible for the brutal murders of five American soldiers in exchange for the remains of two deceased British hostages.

Prepare to be infuriated.

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On Jan. 20, 2007, five American soldiers were killed and three seriously wounded in Iraq. As Bill Roggio relates at the Long War Journal, it was a daring operation: a twelve-man terrorist team disguised as U.S. servicemen attacked our troops as they held a previously arranged meeting with local officials in Karbala. Four of the soldiers were alive when they were abducted from the scene. They were handcuffed and murdered in a remote location when the coalition forces attempting to rescue them closed in.

Given the sophistication of the raid and the intelligence required to pull it off, it was a virtual certainty that the mullahs’ special forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, were behind it. More than a decade earlier, in concert with Hezbollah (Iran’s forward terrorist militia), the IRGC had bombed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 members of the United States Air Force. In Karbala, the IRGC had relied on what Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies aptly calls its “most lethal element,” the Quds (Jerusalem) Force, in combination with a burgeoning, Hezbollah-like network of local Shiite terrorists.

This was confirmed two months later when U.S. forces captured Ali Mussa Daqduq, a high-ranking veteran of Hezbollah, in Basrah. As Roggio explains, Daqduq had been tasked by Iran to organize a network of terror cells to strike coalition forces in Iraq. The network would operate under the direction of Qais Qazali. Qazali and his brother, Laith Qazali, were captured along with Daqduq.

Unquestionably, Iran, acting through the Qazali network — which is better known as Asaib al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous — was responsible for the murder of our troops in Karbala. As Ledeen documents in his book The Iranian Time Bomb (reviewed here), Gen. David Petraeus made that clear at an April 2007 press conference. Petraeus detailed that the Qazali brothers were among “the key members” of a network of “extremist secret cells.” These groups, he said,

were provided substantial funding, training on Iranian soil, advanced explosive munitions and technologies as well as run-of-the-mill arms and ammunition, in some cases advice and in some cases even a degree of direction. When we captured these individuals . . . we discovered . . . a 22-page memorandum on a computer that detailed the planning, preparation, approval process, and conduct of the operation that resulted in five of our soldiers being killed in Karbala . . . . There are numerous documents which detailed a number of different attacks on coalition forces, and our sense is that these records were kept so that they could be handed in to whoever it is that is financing them. And there’s no question, again, that Iranian financing is taking place through the Quds Force of the Iranian Republican [sic] Guards Corps.

About two weeks ago, the Obama administration released Laith Qazali after extensive negotiations with the Asaib al-Haq terror network. That network has long been in negotiations with the fledgling Iraqi government, dangling the possibility of laying down its arms, renouncing violence, and integrating into Iraqi society, provided that its top members — particularly Qais and Laith Qazali, as well as Ali Mussa Daqduq — be released. Realizing, however, that these terrorists were responsible for kidnapping and killing American soldiers in gross violation of the laws of war, the Bush administration had declined to release them.