In 2016, Xiyue Wang, an American doctoral student visiting Iran on a research trip, was arrested on spurious charges of espionage. He has since been in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Last week, his wife led a group of other relatives of hostages and political prisoners held by the Islamic Republic in an appeal to the UN General Assembly, which was then convening in New York, to pressure the mullahs to set their loved ones free. Europe, writes Eli Lake, has no interest in doing so:
The European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and the Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif this week announced their plans for a new financial instrument that in theory would allow European companies doing business with Iran to evade U.S. sanctions. Although most European businesses have already announced plans to divest from Iran, the EU wants to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive. . . .
[B]y making the nuclear deal the main topic of discussion, the Europeans are giving Iran tacit permission to continue funneling weapons to militias and terror groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. The message is clear if indirect: don’t worry about releasing political prisoners, please just don’t enrich more uranium. . . .
U.S. policy, [by contrast], is to punish Iran economically for its regional aggression. President Trump himself has said he is open to talks with Iran’s leaders, but that does not look likely. And while European leaders will make boilerplate condemnations of Iran’s interference in Syria and its detention of dual nationals, they have focused most of their diplomatic energies on the nuclear deal. . . .
What will it take to rescue Iran’s political prisoners? The same thing it will take to end Iran’s support for Syria’s dictator: a wholesale change in Iranian behavior. And the best chance for that happening is for Iranians to change their regime.