Kidnapping's End

June 18, 1992

The release of the last known living Western hostages held in Lebanon ends a crisis in relations between the West and Lebanon, Syria and Iran that has been going on since 1984. Their kidnapping was state-sponsored terrorism.

Germany made some concessions in the treatment of two convicted terrorists in German prisons to buy their freedom, but so long as the concessions are reasonable, that price is not too high.

Of 92 Western hostages seized while going about their daily business in Lebanon from 1984 to 1991, eight are known dead and three presumed dead. The others are free. Yet Abdul-Hadi Hamadi, reputed mastermind of many kidnappings, security chief of the Hezbollah group, jailer for 1,127 days of German relief workers Heinrich Struebig and Thomas Kemptner, remains free as well.

He was trying to bargain their release for that of his brothers. Mohammad Ali Hamadi is serving a life sentence for a 1985 civil airliner hijacking in which a U.S. sailor was murdered. Abbas Hamadi is serving 13 years for the kidnapping of two Germans who were freed in 1989.

The Hamadi brothers are Shiite Muslims from Lebanon. Their group, Hezbollah, operated with impunity in Lebanon, a nominally sovereign country occupied by 40,000 Syrian troops. There is no doubt from the torturous way the hostage release was brokered that Syria and Iran wished the crisis over to improve their own relations with the West. That alone is an indictment of their complicity.

Another indictment of Iran is the continuing death sentence by Iranian religious authorities, with a $1 million bounty, on author Salman Rushdie in England. The supposedly moderate Iranian government does not feel able to rescind or rebuke that terrorism. If not, it is not ready for the community of nations.

So if a chapter is closed, the book is not. The chapter ended mercifully for Mr. Struebig and Mr. Kemptner and their families, but not satisfactorily for the rule of law. It ends, rather, with a threat from the kidnappers of more to come if their demands are not met. Terrorism as a way of doing business has had a setback, but it is still out there, awaiting a comeback.

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