New German PM Angela Merkel campaigned on a promise to strengthen ties with Washington. Unfortunately, one her first major decisions isn't going to sit well with the United States, or anyone opposed to Islamic terrorism.
Hizballah member Mohammed Ali Hamadi was released from a German jail a few days ago and allowed to return to Lebanon. Hamadi was serving a life sentence for the murder of a U.S. Navy diver, Petty Officer Robert Stethem, who was tortured and killed during the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in June 1985. The Germans arrested Hamadi two years later, as he tried to smuggle liquid explosives through the Frankfurt airport. While the U.S. sought his extradition on murder charges, the Germans refused, citing American death penalty laws.
Not coincidentally, Hamadi's release came just days before Islamic terrorists freed a German hostage in Iraq. The cost of that little exchange has yet to be measured; Hamadi disappeared after flying from Germany to Beirut. Given his terrorist ties, it's a good bet he's getting reacquainted with his Hizballah chums, and he'll probably be back in the business in no time.
After the blatant anti-Americanism of Gerhard Schroeder, many Americans cheered when Ms. Merkel unseated him. Judging from the Hamadi decision, it appears as though our confidence was misplaced. By cutting a deal with terrorists, Ms. Merkel is likely setting the stage for more violence and bloodshed, all for the sake of scoring a few political points at home. I'm sure the kidnappers in Iraq are taking note; there's a new boss in Berlin, and she's more than willing to make a deal.
To my European friends, no I haven't forgotten about the Iran-Contra affair. While Ollie North's described it (famously) as a "neat idea," the arms-for-hostages-and-money-for-the Contras arrangement ultimately blew up in Ronald Reagan's face, and only emboldened the terrorists. It's a lesson Ms. Merkel has yet to learn.