January 23, 2015 | The Hill

Americans as Hostages and Targets

There are several American hostages in Iran, and the Tehran regime uses them very cruelly and relentlessly in its dealings with the U.S. government, as The Washington Post angrily noted editorially last week. They were specifically exercised about their Tehran correspondent, Jason Rezaian, whom they correctly said was being used as a “human pawn.” It would have been good for the Post to mention that Rezaian is not the only pawn on the board. There is also a former Marine, Amir Hekmati, and an evangelical priest, Saeed Habedini.

The Iranians are always willing to barter American hostages, a practice that goes back some decades. In the '80s, they released some hostages when the United States enabled the regime to purchase American weapons for use in the war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and more recently they sold us a CIA officer for cash upwards of $1 million. And I rather suspect that some American hostages were freed in exchange for an Iranian serving time in California for sanctions-busting. We know the regime is interested in precisely that sort of thing, since the spokeswoman for the Iranian foreign ministry publicly announced that Hekmati would be released if Iranian prisoners in the U.S. were set free.

No wonder the State Department just issued a warning to Americans contemplating travel to Iran. Americans are highly desirable kidnapping targets (the Iranian regime pays generously for U.S. hostages and murder victims). As the Rejaian, Hekmati and Habedini cases show, Iranian-Americans are decidedly at risk. Nor is it necessary to enter Iran to be targeted; remember those students who were seized in Iraq and dragged across the border?

The feckless American policy toward terrorists has encouraged our enemies to expand their ambitions to include American military inside the United States. Not just active-duty soldiers, either. Eli Lake and Josh Rogin tell us that hackers apparently associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are publishing names and addresses of retired generals, and the Pentagon takes it with due seriousness:

[Rep.] Michael Turner, the Ohio Republican who is chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, told us he believes the hackers may have posted the personal addresses as a sort of hit list. “With the growing threat of sleeper cells and homegrown terrorists, these kinds of communications are not only be (sic) a threat but also a target list,” he said.

If this seems alarmist, recall that Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor of the French satirical magazineCharlie Hebdo and one of the 12 people killed during the massacre at its Paris office, had previously been placed on a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” list published by Inspire, the English-language online magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

It's only a matter of time before our enemies take aggressive action inside our borders. I don't know any counterterrorism expert or practitioner who disagrees. Anyone who has fought them, either on the battlefield or on the airwaves or in print or on Internet will, by now, be on some hit list.

In all probability, they will all have to fend for themselves until that terrible day comes, and we see it for what it is.

Remember the hostages, and worry about the targets — and don't permit your representatives to ignore either.

Ledeen, the author of more than 30 books, is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He was special adviser to former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and a consultant to the national security adviser during the Reagan administration.

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