The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee mused what would happen if the U.S. inks a nuke deal with Iran and takes the nuclear inspectors hostage — just like the Americans held for years now.
The families of Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini and Bob Levinson will for the first time all testify before Congress on their families’ ordeals at a June 2 hearing.
Rezaian is a Washington Post reporter who was taken into custody last summer. Hekmati is a Marine veteran who was seized in 2011 while visiting extended family for the first time. Abedini was convicted in 2013 on charges that the Idaho pastor was trying to spread Christianity. Levinson was kidnapped eight years ago off the coast of Iran while working as a private investigator on a cigarette smuggling case.
Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) spoke with CNN yesterday as news came in that Rezaian’s trial proceedings on espionage charges would be extended to an undisclosed date.
“We should make it very clear to the Iranian government that if their intelligence community and their judicial system can’t protect someone, a journalist like Jason — and three other Americans, by the way, are being held there — if their intent is to duplicate, replicate what they did in 1979 by taking Americans hostages, then what guarantee do we have that, when inspectors, international inspectors go in there, that they’re not going to be taken captive?” Royce said.
“This needs to end now. And that is an old pattern. But to have the possibility of a death sentence for a journalist, this is nothing new in Iran either.”
Hekmati was originally sentenced to death in a closed-door trial, then given a prison sentence on charges that he conspired to commit espionage.
“We’re going have Jason’s brother testify in my committee next week and other family members representing the other three families that are held there. But can you imagine being held for 10 months in Evin prison, which is where some of the worst torturing has gone on, you know, against religious leaders, against students in Iran?” Royce continued.
“Our hearts go out here to the family members. And we hope we can secure his release.”
On Iran and the fight against ISIS, Royce said that “because Baghdad is perceived as being so close to Iran, the Iranian influence has been such that the weapons have not gone to the Sunni tribes.”
“The weapons have not gone to the Kurds,” he said. “In the National Defense Authorization Act, in the legislation we just passed, we addressed that issue by mandating that some of the aid that we put through Baghdad go directly to the Kurdish forces and to the Sunni tribes that are working there, because we know that the Shia-led government at this point has not only provided woefully inadequate officers, but have not provided the resources, the equipment necessary for the tribesmen.”
“…I have met with the leadership of the Sunni tribes when they came to Washington. They want to take back that province, but they say they need the equipment and support from Baghdad to do it.”