Iran’s regime has long been involved in employing hostage-taking as a means to achieve its political objectives. This disturbing tactic involves unlawfully detaining individuals, often foreign nationals, to extract concessions from other countries or advance its own agenda on the international stage. This article sheds light on Iran’s history of hostage-taking diplomacy, its motivations behind such actions, and the international response to this deplorable practice.
A History of Hostage-Taking Diplomacy
Iran’s regime has engaged in hostage-taking diplomacy for decades, with notable incidents that have garnered international attention. One of the most infamous cases was the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran in 1979 when Iranian militants held 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days. This act of aggression violated international law and clearly displayed the Iranian regime’s willingness to exploit hostages as bargaining chips.
Since then, the regime has continued to employ hostage-taking as a tool of diplomacy, targeting individuals from various countries. “Hostage-taking diplomacy” is an expression that is often used to describe the regime’s foreign policy.
In recent years, dual nationals, journalists, and human rights activists have been among those detained by the regime’s authorities on dubious charges. These arrests are politically motivated, aimed at silencing dissent and extracting concessions from the detainees’ home countries.
The regime has also shown that it does not shy away from the execution of European citizens. Citizens from most European nationalities have become victims of the regime’s criminal bargain. There are Swedish, Britain, and French citizens among the hostages.
But even outside Iran, Europeans with double-state citizenship can be at risk. For political hostages, the Iranian regime is willing to carry out extraterritorial kidnapping.
A Swedish-Iranian citizen, Habib Farajollah Chaab, was recently executed after he was kidnapped in Iraq. He had been sentenced to death for terrorism.
According to an Amnesty International report published today, 576 people were executed in Iran last year. The most common charges are the vague charge of being a risk to national security.
The regime sentenced Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele to 40 years in prison and is now using him as a bargaining chip in negotiations on the release of Assadollah Assadi, the regime’s diplomat terrorist, who was convicted in Belgium for the attempted terrorist attack on the Iranian opposition’s Grand Gathering in 2018 in Villepinte, France.
Iran’s regime has zero respect for international law and norms. The French hostage Benjamin Brière did not benefit from impartial judges. He had no right to defend himself, no access to the elements of the indictment, and no way to prepare and present a defense before the judges of the Revolutionary Court.
Motivations Behind Hostage-Taking Diplomacy
There are several motivations behind Iran’s regime resorting to hostage-taking diplomacy. One primary reason is to project power and intimidate its adversaries. By targeting foreign nationals, the regime seeks to send a message that it is capable of exerting control over individuals from other countries and is willing to use them as pawns to advance its interests.
Another motivation is to gain leverage in negotiations or secure concessions from other countries. The regime has repeatedly demanded the release of its own nationals, mostly ‘diplomats’ involved in terror actions or illegal activities supporting the regime’s malign projects. This tactic is designed to exert pressure on other nations and extract favorable outcomes that align with the regime’s objectives. And unfortunately, this hostage diplomacy works because Europe continues to negotiate.
Furthermore, hostage-taking diplomacy allows Iran’s regime to divert attention from its internal issues and consolidate domestic support. By presenting itself as a defender of national interests and taking a tough stance against perceived enemies, the regime seeks to rally its population around a common cause and divert attention from domestic challenges or criticisms.
International Response and Consequences
Iran’s hostage-taking diplomacy has been met with widespread condemnation from the international community. Governments, human rights organizations, and global leaders have consistently denounced Iran’s actions as violations of international law and basic human rights. Sanctions and diplomatic pressure have been imposed on the regime to discourage such behavior, although these measures’ efficacy remains debatable.
Last January, the MEPs of the European Parliament voted on a decision to put the regime’s Revolutionary Guard on the European list of terrorist organizations, a decision that was ultimately not implemented. “This is something that cannot be decided without a court. A court decision is necessary,” said EU foreign commissioner Josep Borrell in January. These reactions are considered ineffective and inadequate, even for politicians in the European Union circle.
The European Parliament has asked for further sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as its classification as a terrorist organization, and that has still not been done. This practice serves as a dangerous incentive for the regime to perpetrate these crimes with even greater brutality.
Iran’s regime’s hostage-taking diplomacy is a disturbing tactic that undermines international norms, violates human rights, and poses significant challenges to global security. Exploiting individuals as bargaining chips highlight the Iranian regime’s willingness to employ unethical means to achieve its objectives. The international community must take severe actions and finally sanction the regime’s Revolutionary Guards and all officials involved in human rights violations.