While Iranians hit the streets cheering, honking horns and waving flags, Iran President Hassan Rouhani praised the U.S.-led nuclear program framework agreement reached last Thursday, calling it a “day that will remain in the historical memory of the Iranian nation.”
Despite a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that revealed 70 percent of Americans doubt any deal can stop Iran from producing a bomb, President Obama called it, “a good deal that meets our core objectives” and will cut off Tehran’s path to a bomb.
But Middle East leaders couldn’t disagree more.
Recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit the nail on the head: “Such a deal doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb, it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”
Saudi officials conveyed to the White House that they hoped an agreement would enhance security in the region, but they are also already countering Iran’s bolstering of nuclear power by seeking the sources to build a bomb themselves and protect their country in the future from a nuclear-wielding Tehran.
The only real winner in this nuclear agreement is Iran. As President Rouhani said, it not only protects Iran’s nuclear rights but also provides relief from international sanctions.
And what does the U.S. get from the deal? Empty Iranian promises to allow international inspection teams to examine its nuclear facilities. But when Iran refuses snap inspections as a part of the nuclear agreement, do we really believe it won’t delay inspectors to play the nuclear shell game?
Quite frankly, I think the U.S. is absolutely foolish to have any negotiations with a country that harbors, equips and finances terrorists. We are only aiding and abetting our enemies by doing so. Moreover, we are gullible for believing Iran will not one day break its promises and produce nuclear bombs. And we are definitely not worthy of the title “friend and ally of Israel,” when we endorse her greatest neighboring enemy’s nuclear power.
But do you want to know what is worse than approving a U.S.-Iran nuclear power agreement? Not using it as leverage to force Iran to release three innocent U.S. citizens being held in its prisons.
Before the U.S. even talks about lifting sanctions – let alone sitting down with Iran to talk nuclear power – the White House should demand the release of the American citizens imprisoned in Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry can say he repeatedly calls on Iran to release the Americans, but it is quite another thing to require or demand it.
I would bet most Americans don’t even know that U.S. citizens are being unjustly imprisoned in Iran based upon faulty grounds and charges. And to boot, one is a pastor, one is a journalist and the other a U.S. Marine!
Talk-show host and Marine veteran Montel Williams has recently fanned the flames for the release of Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American former Marine jailed in Tehran.
Montel explained to Greta Van Susteren: “He had to get a passport to fly in Iran to see his dying grandmother. Two months after on the ground, they arrest him and charge him. He is not an Iranian. He is a United States citizen. But the Iranian government is treating him as if he is Iranian just because he has Iranian blood. So he had to go through this process of denouncing and renouncing his Iranian citizenship to see if he can get another government like Pakistan or somebody to step in to see if they can help him, which I think is really ridiculous.”
I would ante-up Montel’s mission also to include the release of pastor Saeed Abedini, who, in 2013, was sentenced to eight years in prison by an Iranian court for starting house churches in the 2000s, an era in which they weren’t even regarded as a threat to Iran’s security.Abedini’s wife explained her frustrations before Congress in 2013 when the White House first sat down with Iranian diplomats: “My husband is suffering because he is a Christian. He’s suffering because he’s an American. … Yet his own government did not fight for him when his captors were across the table.”
In addition, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, a dual national of the U.S. and Iran, “was detained in July 2014 after security forces raided his home in Tehran and arrested him [and] his wife,” according to the Guardian. Iran refuses to detail the charges against Rezaian except to accuse him of “participating in activities outside the scope of journalism.”
And let’s not forget about Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent, who vanished in 2007 after traveling to the Iranian island of Kish. He is one of the longest-held U.S. citizens in history. The Iranian government denies its holding him but, if it’s not, it can certainly cooperate in the investigation to find him.
It is inconceivable that our president’s administration would sit down for a friendly chat with Iranian officials to negotiate nuclear power without ever demanding the three Americans’ release. It’s bad enough that Iran doesn’t offer the release of the three Americans as goodwill gestures. It’s unforgivable that the White House doesn’t insist on their release when sitting right across the table.
But it is not too late. In his White House speech Thursday, even Obama stressed there is much to be finalized over the next three months and that “nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed.”
With a final nuclear agreement to be completed by June 30, one point of action should be clearly made before then. Obama should state categorically to Iranian leaders: Release our U.S. citizens immediately, or kiss any negotiations goodbye.