Two More Hostages

November 19, 1991

The release of hostages Thomas Sutherland and Terry Waite appears to speed the pace of this grim ritual and to offer hope that the Lebanon hostage crisis can be over by Christmas. It is certainly necessary for the progress toward acceptability in the community of nations that Syria and Iran say they want.

Professor Sutherland, a Scottish-born American, and Mr. Waite, an emissary from the Church of England to the kidnappers who was kidnapped himself, have suffered enough. Their freedom is welcome. But the pro-Iranian Hezbollah and its associates in crime in Lebanon hold three more Americans, two Germans and an Italian hostage. The climate of reconciliation in the Middle East, including the Madrid conference, would be improved if Hezbollah would just get it over with and let these people go.

The kidnappers also know how to get back their leader, Sheik Abdel Karim Obeid, and other Lebanese captives of Israel who are counter-hostages. They could all be back tomorrow if Hezbollah and its associates would release Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad and three Israeli soldiers, all missing in Lebanon and either captive or dead. Israel lives next to the hostage state, which Western nations do not, and has policies they do not have and is protecting its own. Never can Sheik Obeid be considered a quid pro quo for Mr. Waite or other Western hostages leaving Israel's men unaccounted for. That exchange has to be with Israel.

All the hostages are held in land that Syria effectively controls, as it does all Lebanon. Syria's hopes for credibility in the Madrid peace conference, about which it appeared ambivalent while there, rest on sending the hostages home. So does Iran's hope for economic cooperation with the world community. Get it over with: Send them all home.

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