Update on Hostage Crises

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Elliott Abrams:

Key Days In Our Hostage Crises

Decisions will be coming in the next few days in the cases of our hostages in Cuba and in Iran.

In Cuba, the "Supreme Peoples Court" heard the appeal of Alan Gross last Friday and should be announcing its decision very soon.

Gross is an AID contractor who Cuba has jailed since 2009 on ridiculous charges that his work for AID was actually espionage.

In Iran, Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer have also been in prison for two years. They are hikers who strayed across Iran's border from Iraqi Kurdistan and the espionage case against them is equally baseless. They are scheduled to go on trial this Sunday, July 31, the second anniversary of their arrest.

One can make an argument for the Obama Administration's low-key handling of these cases—if they end well, with the release of all three men very soon. Then the Administration will be able to say that quiet diplomacy was the best bet and that release could not have been speeded up by louder criticism and more diplomatic attacks on Iran and Cuba.

But that argument will work only if they are all released. If these "trials," which are farcical and depend on decisions made at the top of each regime, do not result in the release of our hostages the Administration will have to abandon its present tactics. Far more publicity and pressure will be needed. For example, the Obama Administration eased rules governing travel to Cuba this year. It is obscene that Americans are cavorting on Cuban beaches while their entire population is held prisoner by the Castro regime, but the loosening of travel regulations cannot be sustained if Cuba refuses to release Alan Gross. If the White House will not tighten them again, Congress should do so unless Gross is freed within weeks.