Pastor Saeed Abedini has just passed a thousand and one nights in Iranian captivity. This U.S. citizen now has the unenviable distinction of having suffered more than twice as long as the 52 hostages held by Iran for 444 days in 1979-81. What is his "crime?" He is accused of activities against the regime.
Our colleague, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has continued to speak out to advocate the release of Pastor Abedini. Tony has made the broader case for religious freedom as a centerpiece for U.S. foreign policy. This, because we see that nations where people murder their neighbors who worship differently are economically backward and are seedbeds for international terrorism. A prestigious academic journal confirms this. This was, tragically, the missing component in our policy toward Afghanistan and Iraq.
Advocates for Pastor Abedini's release appreciate President Obama's visit to the imprisoned Christian's family in Idaho. And Pastor Abedini and his family have publicly thanked Mr. Obama.
Nonetheless, the "Supreme Leader" and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues to hold Pastor Abedini on a charge of threatening Iran's "national security." No trial has been held. No evidence has been produced. The "threat" to Iranian national security seems to be that this Christian pastor has worked to help the plight of orphans in that beleaguered country. The Bible makes it obligatory for Christians to care about widows and orphans.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is a veteran ruler in the theocracy that sent thousands upon thousands of ten-year old boys into Saddam Hussein's minefields during the decade-long Iran-Iraq War (1981-89). These pathetic children were given plastic keys around their necks and told that by walking through the explosives they could enter the gates of Paradise.
It should not surprise us that this is the same regime that invented suicide bombing and used it against our U.S. Marines and Navy Corpsmen in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983. They murdered our brave servicemen as they slept.
Now, the Obama administration is engaged in long-term negotiations with this same regime over its drive for nuclear weapons. Respected Mideast analyst Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary how troubling those talks are as they approach yet another extended (June 30) deadline.
Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in April that economic sanctions would have to be lifted permanently the day of signing the deal. He also made it clear that he will never allow intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, let alone surprise visits by United Nations experts. But President Obama told Congress that sanctions would be lifted only gradually and that a tough inspections regime is a prerequisite for the deal's being finalized. If the Iranians refuse to budge on these key points, the president will either be forced to walk away from the deal or give in to Khamenei, just as he has every time before in the talks.
We may be headed for another "impasse." Or we may he headed for another extension of the talks. All the while, Khamenei's nuclear centrifuges continue spinning, 10,000 of them. And Iran marches steadily toward developing a nuclear weapon.
We suggest that the fate of Pastor Saeed Abedini is a mirror in which is reflected the nature of the regime. That an innocent man, a shepherd tending his flock of believers, can be jailed and subjected to mental and physical torture tells us about the kind of people we are dealing with.
Would such people keep an agreement even were they to sign it? Would they be bound by international law and show what our Founders called "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind"?
Sec. John Kerry wants us not to focus on Iran's past behavior. Why not? By what other standard can we judge the sincerity of this regime than by its thirty-six year war against the U.S.? Ayatollah Khamenei taunts us regularly as he leads thousands of his regime's paid supporters in mass rallies. He leads chants of "Death to America."
Sec. Kerry modeled his career on that of Sen. John F. Kennedy. He shared JFK's abundant shock of hair and his penchant for smartly-tailored suits. He even shared Kennedy's Harvard pedigree and his Boston accent.
But he seems to have missed the import of John F. Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address. President Kennedy said: "The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God."
And JFK movingly added: "The torch has been passed to a new generation...proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed and to which we are committed today and around the world."
First among those human rights—from the dawn of this republic—has been religious freedom. The fate of Pastor Saeed Abedini, American, at the hands of this persecuting Iranian regime, should show us what kind of men we are dealing with.
We will continue to pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini and his suffering family. We believe in the power of prayer. We also believe in prayer for the powerful.
Will President Barack Obama and Sec. John Kerry recognize at long last the need to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? Delaying it will not work. Will they force an end to these interminable "negotiations?" Or will they continue their discredited policy of giving these monstrous mullahs many more months to work their wicked will?