Daily Kickoff: Untold Story of Iran Negotiation that Worked; Fischer to Fed; Why Jewish Wall Street Titans want Hillary & Christie in 16; CIA Arabists

Behind the Scenes: Thirteen Jewish Prisoners in Iran – The Untold Story of a Negotiation That Worked: As the Israeli government and its most ardent backers in the United States continue to ramp up their criticism of the Obama administration’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, they might do well to heed the lessons from the last time they were involved in arms-length diplomacy with their arch-enemies in Tehran. Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Jewish community and the United Nations played a key role in a series of secret negotiations to win the release of thirteen Jews imprisoned in Iran.

–In 1999, the story started almost predictably. Security agents arrested thirteen Jewish residents of the southeast Iranian city of Shiraz, including five merchants, a rabbi, two university professors, three teachers in private Hebrew schools, a kosher butcher and a 16-year-old boy, accusing them of spying for Israel. After an elaborate, partially televised show trial, 10 were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, while Israel organized a high-level pressure campaign globally to win their release. The prisoners were gradually freed in small groups, with the news kept under wraps until the barest of details were leaked in March 2003, a month after the last one left Iran for Israel. But the inside story, never told until now, appears to show that opposite sides can make a deal, no matter how limited the scope. In interviews, the two key players in the negotiations – U.S. Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein and Giandomenico Picco, then a UN diplomat – revealed a delicate diplomatic minuet in the shadows that finally coaxed Iran to release the prisoners. (more…)