Three Americans were arrested by Iranian Border guards yesterday when they did not heed the warning of the guards and crossed over from Kurdish Iraq into Iran. According to the AP, Kurdish officials are referring to the two men and one woman as “hiking tourists.” Has anyone see Gov. Mark Sanford lately?
Allegedly students, I wonder what they were smoking when they decided that hiking in a nation at war was a good idea. “Hey, man, I heard they have some awesome mountains in Kurdistan.” In tourism 101 there’s a section about “What to do if a border guard yells anything at you.”
My money is on the fact that these Americans were not simply innocent hikers or tourists. With so few facts known it would be foolish to point fingers at any American governmental agency. For all we know one of the many ex-pat Iranian groups in the U.S. might have made the itinerary for this trio or maybe they are jounalism students looking for extra credit, but as the protests in Iran continue (largely ignored by American media) the Iranian government is going to take umbrage at anyone illegally entering the country, particularly from a country embroiled in a war that involves the United States, who has a history if interfering in Iranian affairs.
In 1953 President Eisenhower sent the CIA to Iran to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq and restore the Shah to the throne. His twenty-six years of brutal rule set the stage for the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The U.S.’s standing in Iran was further damaged by President Carter’s decision not to talk to the Revolutionary leadership which led to the take-over of the American Embassy, the taking of American hostages for 444 days and the defeat of President Carter in the 1980 election.
Americans as individuals and a nation tend to want to rush into situations without thinking. Troubled American John William Yetta not only is standing trial in Myanmar for his stupid actions in swimming across a lake to the residence where Nobel Peace laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi was under house arrest, which could get him a five year sentence in prison himself, he put the very person he sought to meet in jeopardy. Suu Kyi has already spent 14 of the last 20 years as a prisoner for her nonviolent opposition to the Myanmar government. Just when her parole seemed a possibility Yetta made his midnight swim which sent Suu Kyi from her home back to prison. So far it’s been a good year for meddling Americans.
I am a strong supporter of the Iranian opposition currently fighting for a more democratic society there, but the United States government had best keep out of actual interference when the stakes are so high. The time has not come for President Obama to make overtures to the opposition and it would be just as ill-advised to send in agents, particularly through Iraq. I don’t believe the Obama Administration to be that unwise.
I’m not sure which sounds more ludicrous, spies or tourists hiking in the Kurdish mountains, especially because they’d been warned by the Kurdish authorities not to do so. Whether they are covert agents of the U.S. government, mercenaries of ex-pat Iranians, self-styled freedom fighters, or just very stupid tourists, this incident can materially damage the United States standing in the region because even if they are tourists who lost their Rick Steve’s Guide to Iraq, no one in the region will believe it. This story bears watching.