Putting US Hikers on Trial Gives Iran a Stronger Bargaining Chip
Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been held in a Tehran jail for more than a year, while Sarah Shourd, the third American prisoner, was released on bail. The three were accused of spying after being arrested while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border.
Masoud Shafii, the lawyer of the three Americans, told Al Jazeera that if Shourd does not go back to Iran, her bail might be affected. He added that he had informed their families of the trial’s date.
The Iranian announcement coincided with the US announcement of a $60 billion weapon deal with Saudi Arabia, with the tacit blessing of Israel. This shows that both Israel and Gulf Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, are viewing Iran increasingly as a primary threat, not Israel.
The Iranian announcement also came as the Palestinian Authority announced that it would focus on getting the international community to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The move, in effect, provides an international legitimacy to the status quo regardless of the progress in the ongoing peace process.
This shows that Iran’s strategy of backing Hamas as a way to derail the process has probably failed.
These factors may explain the timing of the Iranian announcement to try the three American citizens of Nov 6th. Iran is hoping that a prison sentence to the three American hikers will give the Tehran regime a stronger bargaining chip with the US at this time.