Chuck Rasch reports in today’s (9/10) St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Ann Wagner “believes a $1.7 billion debt settlement with Iran further endangered her U.S. Army Ranger son and all members of the military and diplomatic corps who serve overseas.” The $1.7 billion settlement to which Wagner refers took place some time ago – last January to be exact – and involved returning money to Iran that had been placed in an account in the United States to pay for fighter planes that were never delivered because of the hostage crisis that began in 1979.
The money was not returned since Iranian assets in U.S. banks were frozen. The $1.7 billion is interest owed on the main sum. The repayment had been in arbitration since 1981. Vox offers a blow-by-blow account here, which concludes that, “the payment, which sounds really shady out of context, was actually the end of a boring, decades-old international legal case totally unrelated to the hot-button nuclear and prisoner issues.”
But Wagner is asserting just such a relationship between the payment and prisoner issues, echoing a false Republican claim that the money was a “ransom” for Westerners held in Iran. She is attempting to embellish the case against paying the settlement by claiming that it might encourage Iranians or others in the Middle East to take prisoners – such as her son and other military personnel – for ransom.
The payment did coincide with the release of some detainees and the Obama administration has been open about the fact that they used the payment as leverage to insure that the release of these prisoners, who were freed as part of an independently negotiated deal with Iran, actually took place. And good on ’em for doing it I, and I suspect most rational people, would say. The payment was going to take place anyway, so why not use it to make it harder for Iran to renege on another agreement? Additionally, while the payment itself was unconnected with the prisoner release or the nuclear agreement, it was a part of improving diplomatic relations with Iran which made the nuclear agreement possible and which will make us all safer – Ann Wagner and her son included.
Wagner is simply attempting to make GOP hardcore, obstructionist jive more acceptable to those, especially women, who, Wagner seems to think, are more susceptible to certain types of emotional arguments. Instead of seeming to oppose the release of folks detained in Iran, which was the inescapable implication of ginned-up Republican dudgeon over the non-ransom, she dredges up her military son as a prop to try to make smart negotiations seem threatening. If anything, it’s even more insulting than standard GOP bull crap.
Apart from crocodile tears for the situation of her and other mother’s military sons, Wagner’s ploy is just another manifestation of the way that, as Vox‘s Zack Beauchamp contends, the GOP attempts to undermine the nuclear agreement with Iran that is proving to be surprisingly successful. This approach, he notes, makes it difficult to deal rationally with the real problems in our relationship with Iran:
… when our Iran debate focuses on misleading nuclear inspection minutiae or whether the Obama administration is “kowtowing” to Iran with things like the alleged hostage payment, we aren’t having a serious conversation about how to address Iran’s actually bad policies.
Instead, we’re debating an endless drumbeat of misleading stories designed only to undermine the nuclear deal and faith in the Obama administration’s negotiating prowess. The ransom faux scandal is only the latest such story in this pattern.
This isn’t a helpful way of talking about America’s Iran policy, and it needs to stop.
And Ann Wagner’s attempts to disguise the same type of piddling obstructionism by introducing the patriotic mommy card needs to stop as well. It’s reprehensible. Women do understand what it means to love one’s children and the desire to protect them. But we aren’t idiots whose thought processes go on hold just because some manipulative female politician tries to use her patriotic baby to string us along on the Stupid Party line.