Politics & Policy

Kerry on WaPo Reporter: We Won’t Hold Iran Deal ‘Hostage to Hostages’

(State Department via Flickr)

Secretary of State John Kerry insisted yesterday that he made the right decision in refusing “to hold a nuclear agreement hostage to hostages,” suggesting that the families of four Americans held in Iran supported the Obama administration’s choice to move forward with the deal.

“The families themselves of these hostages knew exactly what our strategy was and why it was important not to hold a nuclear agreement hostage to hostages,” Kerry said in a press briefing Tuesday. “It was the right thing to do because it could have complicated both [the captives’ situation and the deal] significantly and perhaps have resulted in nothing happening on either.”

He made the comment in response to a question about the fate of the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, who was reportedly convicted in an Iranian court last week. The conviction has spurred an array of House Republicans to call for President Obama to delay implementing the sanctions relief that is provided to Iran under the terms of the deal until after Rezaian and three other American prisoners are released.

“We urge the Obama administration not to lift any economic sanctions until Iran vacates this absurd judgment and releases all four Americans wrongly imprisoned by Iran,” Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), Representative Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), and Representative Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) said in a joint statement Monday. “The lives of Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Robert Levinson should not be a ‘concession’ in President Obama’s Iran deal.”

#share#Kerry’s statement obscured the frustration voiced by the hostages’ families in the days before and after the Iran deal was finalized. “We said, ‘Before you walk away from the deal, make sure they’re released and secured,’” Abedini’s wife Naghmeh recalled last week. “And all along, our government has been saying, ‘Oh, they’ll do the right thing.’”

Family members of the hostages even testified as a group before a House panel prior to the deal’s finalization, in order to put pressure on the negotiators. “We know they can do more,” Hekmati’s sister said in June.

#related#Rezaian’s conviction was reportedly handed down 444 days after his arrest — “the same amount of time as U.S. government employees during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1981,” the Post noted. That crisis ended on the 444th day, when Ronald Reagan took office and the Iranians released the hostages. Rezaian’s imprisonment may just be beginning.

Kerry emphasized that the State Department is still working hard to secure the Americans’ release. “Not a meeting went by, literally not a meeting, where we did not raise the issue of our citizens who are being held in Iran,” he said. “And I can assure you when they do return and people gain full knowledge on the efforts that have been made, nobody will see anything except an extraordinary, continued . . . focused, intensive effort to secure their release.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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