Secretary of State John Kerry closed out the last round of nuclear talks in Vienna with a seven-month extension for Iran and assertions that Tehran is a viable negotiating partner that has met its commitments.
“We want to terminate the sanctions. Yes, we want to terminate the sanctions which were put in place to get us to these negotiations and ultimately to be able to bring about a deal,” Kerry told reporters before flying out of Austria.
“And I would say to those who are skeptical, those who wonder whether we should rush ahead down a different course, I believe the United States and our partners have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point,” Kerry continued. “Many were quick to say that the Joint Plan of Action would be violated; it wouldn’t hold up, it would be shredded. Many said that Iran would not hold up its end of the bargain. Many said that the sanctions regime would collapse. But guess what? The interim agreement wasn’t violated.”
“Iran has held up its end of the bargain.”
Yet Iran still holds four Americans.
Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent and father of seven, was working as a private detective on a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian resort port in the Persian Gulf with looser entrance requirements, when he disappeared on March 8, 2007. Later reports indicated he was contracting for the CIA.
A year ago he became the longest held U.S. hostage in history, passing Terry Anderson’s 2,454 days in captivity at the hands of Hezbollah before being freed in 1991.
In January, his wife, Christine Levinson, released photos the family had received from his captors nearly two years earlier. She did so because “there isn’t any pressure on Iran to resolve this.”
Flagstaff, Ariz., native and Marine veteran Amir Hekmati was seized by the Iranian government in August 2011 while on a trip, with proper visa documents from the Iranian government, to visit relatives in Tehran. He was originally sentenced to death in a quickie trial on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage, retried and sentenced to 10 years behind bars for “collaborating” with the U.S. government.
In March, his mother, Behnaz Hekmati, wrote to President Obama for help, noting that her family “is constantly reminded” by government officials that her son’s case “is being raised, but there has been no real progress.”
“Amir was taken from me nearly three years ago, falsely accused of being a spy and sentenced to death. That sentence was later overturned due to a lack of evidence, yet still he languishes. This is a historic time for Iran and the United States,” she wrote. “I plead that you do not forget Amir, his service, his beautiful smile and his zeal for life.”
This September, Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini marked two years behind bars in Iran.