As Barnett Rubin notes at the Global Affairs blog, Haleh Esfandiari has been allowed to leave Iran and has met her husband, Shaul Bakhash, in Vienna. I am so happy that my friend is free, though I regret the continued imprisonment of three other Iranian-American intellectuals (not to mention many, many prisoners of conscience.) And, my delight at Haleh’s release is tempered with continued anger that she was imprisoned in the first place, on frankly paranoid and silly charges. AFP implies that she is technically just out on bail. Since she obviously is not going back to be tried, she may forfeit the over $300,000 bail money, which means that this episode functioned among other things as a shakedown.
The Iranian government is facing increasing isolation in the world, and there are lots of people who would like to do to Iran what was done to Fallujah. It is highly unwise of Tehran to retreat into North Korean-style isolation and to draw the ire of the global human rights community. The poor human rights record of the Saddam Hussein regime made it difficult for anti-war forces to mobilize in 2002 and early 2003.