The Biden Administration Is Preparing to Abandon American Hostages in Iran Once More

April 7, 2021 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he maintains a blog, Pressure Points.

Last week, a State Department spokesman issued a well-meaning statement about the plight of Siamak Namazi, an American citizen held hostage by the Islamic Republic along with his eighty-four-year-old father. The younger Namazi was first told he couldn’t leave Iran in July 2015—the same month the nuclear agreement was finalized—and was sentenced to prison on October 18, just one day before the deal’s official “adoption day.” Yesterday, indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran with the aim of restoring the nuclear deal (formally known as the JCPOA) began in Vienna. Elliott Abrams comments:

[We] all know what [the Siamaks’ imprisonment] says about Iran—the manufactured prison sentences, the kangaroo courts, the cruelty. But also note their contempt for the United States, signaled by their sentencing of Siamak Namazi to ten years just one day before “adoption” of the JCPOA in 2015. They guessed correctly that American talk about doing all we can to get our hostages returned did not include delaying the lifting of U.S. sanctions by one single day.

The question is whether another American administration is about to do it again, and tragically the answer appears to be yes. . . . Instead of fine words from the State Department spokesman . . . what the Namazis need is a commitment to get them out before we agree to anything with Iran. The spokesman called this meeting in Vienna “a healthy step forward,” and Rob Malley, special representative for Iran, called it “a first step . . . on the right path.” A better and healthier first step would be a commitment to freedom for these unjustly imprisoned Americans. The “right path” would lead them home.

[Biden] administration officials are negotiating now to give the Iranian regime something it badly wants: sanctions relief. To lift the key financial and petroleum sanctions without gaining the release of the American hostages in Iran is in effect to abandon them—again.

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