On May 8, the tyrannical regime in Tehran formally arrested a 67-year-old grandmother, Haleh Esfandiari. Not a sailor or marine -- like the 15 Brits Iran held hostage earlier this spring -- Esfandiari is a U.S.-Beltway-policy wonk: She is director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. She was forbidden exit from the mullahcracy, where she had been to visit her sick mother. At the airport, her passports were taken, and she's spent 2007 under house arrest -- and is now in the hellish Evin Prison. The regime says she's a pawn of the evil neocon Bush administration's plot to take over Iran.Esfandiari is not the only American recently taken hostage by Iran. Her prison mate is another supposed American spy: Kian Tajbakhsh, a sociologist from the Open Society Institute (a New York group that promotes democracy). Iran has also detained a peace activist named Ali Shakeri and a journalist, Parnaz Azima, from the Persian version of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. A fifth American is missing there: Robert A. Levinson, a former FBI agent. (You can imagine what they think of him.) That a number of these Americans do not exactly sound like likely members of the vast-right-wing-Jewish-conspiracy to do Zionist and Ugly American bidding means nothing to the terror regime in Iran, which thrives on "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" propaganda.
The news of the Shakeri arrest came down from the State Department days after the United States held talks with Iran for the first time in 25 years. While I don't have easy answers ready for how to solve the problem that is a nuclear, jihadist Iran, I also have the hardest time squaring these negotiations with President George W. Bush's brave and morally clear insistence of "you're either with us or against us." He named Iran as part of an "axis of evil," encouraging terrorism against American citizens, of the sort we saw when jihadists killed some 3,000 Americans on our soil, none too far from where I work and live.