ANALYSIS: Why visiting an isolated Iran can endanger our lives

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In November 1979, a few months after Iran's Mullahs assumed power, the world got a bitter taste of what was about to come when Iran's Supreme Leader Khomeini ordered suppressive forces under the guise of students to storm the US Embassy in Tehran to take 52 hostages.

It was only after months of negotiations and generous concessions that the hostages were returned to the US in January 1981. Unfortunately, this set a catastrophic example for the following decades, letting Iran's rulers know that taking hostages is a beneficial business.

Ever since, Iran's rulers have been continuing to implement these old mafia tactics. They are part of Iran's terrorist arsenal which also includes bombings, the support of numerous global terror organizations like Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, the export of its 'revolution“ into other countries through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), mass executions and assassinations of opponents. Hostage taking operations mainly target foreign and dual nationals inside and outside Iran.

Though some hostages were killed in the past, mostly the captures lead to negotiations with the involved countries and usually end in the hostages' release in exchange for political and financial concessions. While financial concessions mainly consist in the transfer of money, trade deals and sanctions relief. political concessions include prisoner swaps with imprisoned Iranian agents and terrorists and measures against Iranian opposition groups such as the PMOI.

In 1986, among other concessions to the regime, the majority of the PMOI leadership were forced to leave France to secure the release of French hostages in Lebanon that were captured by Iran's proxy 'Hezbollah'. Similarly, American hostages were captured and only released after Tehran's demands were met. The malice of Iran's procedures was exposed when Sheikh Muhammad-Hussein Fadhlullah, a 'Hezbollah' leader, acknowledged in March 1991: „If it were left to us, we would release them this very day. But [Iranian President] Rafsanjani believes that the Americans are not yet ready to step forward and accept Tehran's demands“. Unfortunately criminals like the late Rafsanjani against whom an arrest warrant was issued in Argentina for his involvement in a Jewish cultural center bombing in 1994, are often times wrongfully portrayed as reformers in mass media to keep the appeasement policy with Tehran alive.

Last year, former US President Barack Obama shipped a $400 million ransom to Iran to free American hostages that had been arrested after visiting Iran. Though the administration claimed that this money was part of a $1.7 billion settlement dispute going back to the time of the Shah, it became pretty obvious that this claim was nothing more than an excuse.

As Saeed Abedini, one of the hostages, told Fox News, the Iranians were waiting for the money to arrive, to free the hostages. This procedure was not surprising as it was part of the appeasement policy of the Obama administration to empower Iran's expansionist regime which led to further destabilization of the Middle East. Similarly, the Qatari rulers, among other measures, contributed to destabilize the region when they reportedly facilitated the transfer of $1 billion dollars to Iran- and al-Qaeda–linked groups in 2016 to release members of their royal family who were kidnapped in Iraq. Bloomberg's Eli Lake rightfully pointed out in an article in August 2016 that the Obama administration in 2009, when the people in Iran were rising up to root out the regime, for geopolitical reasons did not support them, as it wanted a nuclear deal, not a regime change. We were therefore not surprised to see that Iranian officials increased their military budget by exactly the same $1.7 billion, the US had sent them to release the hostages at the expense of the US taxpayers.

We can assume that at least part of this money has been spent for terror operations.

The anti-religious measures of randomly taking hostages are especially disturbing since they contradict the very teachings of the Quran which wants us to even take in and safeguard our counterparts from hunger and fear. Making things even worse, Iran's partners in Turkey and North Korea seem to have learned from Iran's convenient strategy, with Turkey recently having arrested foreign reporters.

The rulers in Iran know that with each act of hostage taking, mass media puts pressure on Western politicians to bring the hostages back home, making them look weak. Nevertheless, a few politicians are willing to withstand that pressure. Most prefer to reward the criminals to get public recognition, while knowing that the vicious cycle is about to repeated itself soon after.

We therefore have to be prepared to not find ourselves being entangled in Iran's spiderweb. With Iran being more and more isolated, it is quite likely that terror attacks and hostage taking operations will even increase soon. Our citizens need to be informed to no longer visit Iran and areas controlled by pro-Iranian forces, regardless of economical and geopolitical considerations. This is the only way to ensure their security without having to enable terrorism. While most of us know that visiting ISIS territory can endanger our lives, few of us have the same view regarding Iranian controlled territory. Besides, spending money in Iran generally has to be avoided for security reasons as at least 40 percent of the economy is in the hands of the IRGC, the very source of terrorism in the world.

Ultimately the only language terrorists understand, is the language of force. Instead of playing into the criminals' hands and letting them dictate the terms, our leaders have to set a red line by putting political and economic pressure on them. While Obama used to react to the terrorists' demands and endangered the world by giving money to them, President Donald Trump has found the right words this week when he urged Iran's rulers to release the imprisoned US hostages, warning them to impose new and serious consequences if they refuse to do so. In this regard, the difference between the Obama administration and the Trump administration seems to be like the alteration of night and day. It is in our interest that other world leaders follow Trump's example and tackle the elephant in the room that has been ignored for too long. We, the peace loving people of the world, will benefit greatly from it.

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