Ever since President Obama made history with a groundbreaking nuclear disarmament deal with Iran, Republican lawmakers have tried to undermine the nature of the agreement by pointing to several American citizens who were still languishing in the country’s prison. They argued that no deal can truly be reached until Iran released the imprisoned Americans. That all changed on Saturday, January 16, when the Obama administration pulled off yet another victory: Securing the release of five American prisoners, who will now get to return to their families.
This is great news, right? Apparently, not if you are a conservative politician.
Rather than celebrate, Republicans – still allergic to acknowledging Obama’s accomplishments, no matter how uncontroversial – whined and complained. Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner, even suggested the prisoners should have stayed in Iranian prison because it was a bad deal.
“They’re getting seven people, so essentially they get $150bn plus seven, and we get four,” the billionaire said.
Marco Rubio agreed with Trump that the prisoner swap was a bad idea. His disingenuous argument was that “swapping” made America weak – despite the fact that America has had no problem using the technique since the Revolutionary War.
One of the main criticisms Republicans leveled at Obama was that he didn’t care about the prisoners. Just days before the White House announced the release of the prisoners, Republican politicians and pundits were claiming Obama didn’t care about them at all.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 13, 2016
Hey Iran, you have exactly 300 days left to push a US president around. Enjoy it while you can. After that, there will be hell to pay.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 12, 2016
In fact, we now know with certainty that nothing could be further from the truth. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working around the clock to get these Americans home. (Note: Obama isn’t the only one who gets no credit. Not a single Republican thanked Kerry for his efforts, either. Ted Cruz did thank God though.)
Praise God! Surely bad parts of Obama's latest deal, but prayers of thanksgiving that Pastor Saeed is coming home. https://t.co/rad1VcWUml
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 16, 2016
This political posturing might play well with the fringe right who love to hear about Obama’s “failures,” but the families of the victims are telling an entirely different story. According to the wife of one of the prisoners, Obama was dogged about getting these Americans home to their families.
On CNN, Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Christian pastor Saeed Abedini (imprisoned in Iran since 2012), said Obama assured her that he and his administration were doing everything they could to bring him home – even while Republicans screeched on Fox News saying the opposite. Speaking with Wolf Bltizer, Abedini said:
“It’s been wonderful. Especially the last year. Constant communication. Constant updates. Of course last year, we met with President Obama. He was in Boise, Idaho, [and] we had a private meeting with [him]. The last year has been the best support. They were continually updating us… talks they were having with Iran and the side negotiations. I had a feeling in the last few months that it was coming to a close, but I wasn’t really sure and I wouldn’t trying to get my hopes up.”
In other words, the Obama administration had been doing all the things you would hope a president would when wrestling with a tense negotiation with a foreign country that doesn’t exactly love America.
This has been a common theme during Obama’s presidency. Fox News pundits and right-wing politicians hoping to score cheap political points take potshots at the president, because they know he can’t respond. Obama’s silence wasn’t apathy, it was necessary in order to make the deal work. So rather than tank the negotiation for his own reputation, he took the punches and worked on in silence.
It’s worth remembering, particularly on a day like this, that the Republican alternative to these successful negotiations was to quite literally start a war with Iran. It’s never been clear how exactly they reasoned that a new world war would help things, but then, war has always been an easy answer. Diplomacy takes more intelligence, and a heck of a lot more courage.
Watch Abedini’s interview via CNN below:
Featured image via CNN