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What About Meriam, President Obama?

Sen. Inhofe calls for a Sudanese woman sentenced to death to receive asylum.

meriam ibrahimby Peter Roff

No one knows how much attention the Obama administration is paying to the plight of a Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith, but the lack of pictures of first lady Michelle Obama holding a #FreeMeriamIbrahim sign suggests it’s not very much.

The story of Meriam Ibrahim, whom the Sudanese government has decided was raised in a Muslim environment, meaning she must renounce her belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ or die, has not gotten the same level of attention as the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by a terrorist group that objects to their receiving an education. Nonetheless it is, from an American perspective, just as if not more important because she is the wife of a U.S. citizen, and should, therefore, be a priority for the president and his national security team.

That they have failed to act may be due to the intense negotiations just concluded that produced the release of an American soldier allegedly being held captive in Afghanistan in exchange for the release of five high-ranking terrorist detainees who were being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As time passes, however, the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who went missing nearly five years ago from his post in Afghanistan, becomes all the more mysterious.

“Bergdahl’s mysterious disappearance from the small military outpost there and the subsequent revelation that he was in enemy hands prompted questions that still linger,” The New York Post reported Saturday. “Soon after the capture, Taliban commander Mulvi Sangeen claimed a drunken Bergdahl was snatched while he stumbled to his car in the Yousaf Khel district of Paktika,” the paper said – noting that the U.S. military called the assertion a lie but also reporting that the now former captive had “made murky statements that suggested he was gravitating away from the soldiers in his unit and toward ­desertion,” according to an interview given by a member of his platoon.

If it turns out the administration did indeed release five high-value prisoners captured in the war on terror in order to secure the release of someone who more properly should stand before a military court martial, as some are now suggesting, the president and national security adviser Susan Rice, among others, will have a lot of explaining to do.

What that all means, in the infinite scheme of things, is that the administration needs a clear national security win it can brag about to deflect attention not just away from its seemingly ill-considered “trade for terrorists” but from the unfolding scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs that forced the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki and the other bad news the president and his team have visited on the nation over the last five days.

Fortunately for Ibrahim – and for the rest of us – someone who hasn’t taken his eye off the ball is Oklahoma GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe, who Monday wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting the U.S. government immediately grant her and her family, including the child to whom she gave birth last week while a prisoner, political asylum.

“I fear for the health and safety of Ms. Ibrahim, her husband and two children,” Inhofe told his former senate colleague, “despite statements by the government of Sudan that no sentence will be carried out until two years after the completion of her appeals.” The Sooner State’s senior legislator is one of more than a score of senators who have introduced S. Res. 453, which called for the immediate release of Ibrahim and her children.

In a statement, Inhofe made clear his efforts were all about encouraging the U.S. government to support religious freedom within Sudan and recognize “every individual regardless of religion should have the opportunity to practice his or her religion without fear of discrimination.”

Inhofe may have given Obama and company a way out: If Ibrahim is eventually executed, they would most assuredly get a well-deserved portion of the blame. A grant of political asylum would be, for Obama, a proactive way to resolve this most serious crisis in a way that allows the Sudanese government to save face, since she is the husband of an American citizen. Everyone could declare victory, everyone could argue that principle was upheld – even if those principles are in direct conflict with one another – and most importantly, Ibrahim would be alive and free and able to practice her faith as her conscience dictates. It is a strategy the administration should pursue with the greatest possible dispatch, even if that means putting Kerry on a plane for Africa. If he times it right, he could hitch a ride with the departing terrorists the administration is sending to Qatar for a year in order to save the taxpayers some money.

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Peter Roff is a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report. Formerly a senior political writer for United Press International, he’s now affiliated with several public policy organizations including Let Freedom Ring, and Frontiers of Freedom. His writing has appeared in National Review, Fox News’ opinion section, The Daily Caller, Politico and elsewhere.