Embassy Row: Hostage location classified

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Secretary of State John F. Kerry surprised members of Congress on Tuesday by revealing that the whereabouts of seven Iranian dissidents kidnapped in a deadly raid on a refugee camp in Iraq is classified.

His comment suggests that the Obama administration knows their whereabouts and whether they are being held by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a favor to Iran’s theocratic rulers.

The State Department has insisted it has no proof that Iraq is holding the one male and six female Iranian dissidents kidnapped Sept. 1 in a raid that left 52 other dissidents dead.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen pressed Mr. Kerry for an answer about the hostages when he appeared before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the Iranian nuclear deal.

“Are they in Iran or Iraq?” the Florida Republican said. Mr. Kerry said he would have to discuss that with her in a classified briefing.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher asked Mr. Kerry if the Obama administration would support a bill he introduced that would give U.S. refugee status to more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents in Iraq.

“They are under constant threat of being murdered,” the California Republican said.

Mr. Kerry said he would have to see the bill.

The dissidents of the former armed wing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran surrendered their weapons to U.S. troops in 2003 and remained under U.S. protection until 2009, when the Obama administration turned them over to the Iraqi government.

TRADING PARTNERS

The ambassador from the European Union is cheering trade talks with the U.S. as the most significant trans-Atlantic deal “in history,” but free-market advocates are warning that EU bureaucrats could cripple the American economy with onerous regulations.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could “far exceed anything we have done before,” according to Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU’s ambassador in Washington.

The TTIP talks opened in July. Negotiators held a second round in mid-November, and are due to resume next week in Washington.

Mr. Almeida, writing for the Council of American Ambassadors, hailed the prospects of a pact between the U.S. and the 28 nations of the EU.

“This could be the biggest bilateral trade deal in history, its impact greater than all other trade deals on the table put together,” he said.

The ambassador noted that the United States and the EU engage in more than $2.5 billion in cross-Atlantic trade a day and that U.S. and EU firms hold $2.5 trillion in bilateral investments.

The deal would remove tariffs on many goods and standardize regulations and standards on many products, he said.

Researchers at the Heritage Foundation, however, urged U.S. negotiators to slow down and watch for European tricks to impose higher taxes or burdensome restrictions on American companies.

“There are reasons to be concerned that TTIP will not free trade but, instead, build a trans-Alantic managed market,” the conservative think tank said in its latest report on the negotiations.

The Heritage report noted that bureaucrats at EU headquarters in Brussels impose regulations on member nations and frequently complain if any EU country adopts low taxes to spur economic growth.

“The EU is a bitter opponent of any form of regulatory competition,” said the report’s authors, Ted R. Bromund, Luke Coffey, Rea S. Hederman Jr. and Bryan Riley. “In the EU, lower taxes are viewed as a form of cheating.”

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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