As the final nuclear deal with Iran was announced with concessions and trade-offs, four names were noticeably absent from the administration’s lips: Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian, and Bob Levinson.
Families of the four had expressed trepidation in the weeks of negotiations leading up to the Vienna agreement. Would Iran feel generous in a new era of rapprochement? Or if Iran got what it wanted, would all leverage to gain the release of the American hostages could go out the window?
There was no sign today that Iran intended to release any of them.
“On the detained Americans, as I think most of you know every time we have a negotiation round with the Iranian’s we have on margin of those discussions about the detained Americans in Iran as well as our concerns about missing American, Robert Levinson. And both Secretary Kerry and myself, both separately and together, have had more than one conversation during the course of these — this negotiating round,” a senior administration official told reporters on a background call today.
“Secretary Kerry, in fact, had yet another conversation today with Minister [Javad] Zarif and their other people on the delegation that have close ties to other parts of the Iranian government with whom we speak as well. We believe very strongly that this is an opportunity for Iran to let the Americans come home.”
The official said they “certainly want to make sure that the treatment of Americans who are now being detained is the best until they get home, and that should be immediately.”
All of the Americans have suffered mistreatment including torture, malnourishment, and lack of medical care.
“And we are doing whatever we possibly can to get Americans home and we think that this is a moment where Iran has a really important opportunity to make a humanitarian gesture and bring the American home,” the official added of the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
Hekmati, a decorated Marine veteran who served in the Iraq war, was visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011 when he was seized and sentenced on trumped-up espionage charges.
Washington Post reporter Rezaian, who has reported from Tehran since 2008, was seized on July 22, 2014, in a raid on his home. He is facing espionage charges and had a closed-door hearing Monday while the final details of the agreement were being worked out.
Idaho pastor Abedini was convicted in January 2013 of establishing Christian house churches while in the country to set up a government-sanctioned orphanage.
Former FBI agent Levinson went missing off the coast of Iran eight years ago while working as a private investigator. Levinson’s family later received images of him in captivity, though the Iranian government has maintained they don’t know who is holding him. He is the longest-held U.S. hostage in history.
The Americans were not mentioned by President Obama nor John Kerry in their remarks.