The congressman who represents a Flint, Mich., Marine veteran held by Iran for nearly four years said he’s weighed the P5+1 nuclear deal and has decided to vote in favor of it.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) has been a vocal advocate for his constituent, Amir Hekmati, and three other Americans held or missing in Iran: pastor Saeed Abedini, journalist Jason Rezaian, and retired FBI agent Bob Levinson.
Amir’s 32nd birthday was this week — the third he’s marked behind the bars of Evin prison — and Kildee noted Tuesday that “there isn’t a day that goes by that a member of Congress doesn’t ask me about Amir’s condition and continued captivity. And it is impossible for any member of Congress to erase from our memory the fact that Iran continues to hold Amir and other innocent Americans.”
Today, Kildee said in a statement that “after careful review and consultation, I will support the nuclear agreement with Iran.”
“I have ultimately determined it will make the world a safer place and is in the best interest of the U.S., our allies, and the global community. Ultimately, this deal prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. And if Iran cheats, we will know it,” the congressman said. “How to deal with the threat that Iran represents is a very difficult question, and there is no perfect answer.”
Kildee said that since the agreement was announced he’s “studied it in detail, attended classified briefings on key provisions, and met with the president, administration officials, independent experts, and people I represent.” President Obama hosted House Democrats at the White House yesterday for a closed-door meeting.
“Through this process, I have judged the agreement on its merits while asking what other alternatives are available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And the fact remains that there is simply no viable alternative to this agreement that stops Iran from getting this dangerous weapon,” he said.
“Some have suggested that the fate of Amir Hekmati and the other innocent American political prisoners held in Iran be tied to the nuclear deal. However, I do not support this approach. We never want to exchange the freedom of innocent Americans for something that presumably makes the world a less safe place. Amir himself has said that he does not want his release to be traded for such concessions. Simply, he is innocent, has committed no crime, and Iran needs to unilaterally release him.”
In an April letter to Congress, Amir stressed that, in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, “I voiced my opposition to any prisoner exchange, as I’ve committed no crime, and consider the Ministry of Intelligence demands to be illegitimate.”
“While I am thankful that the State Department and the Obama administration has called for my release and that of my fellow Americans, there has been no serious response to this blatant and ongoing mistreatment of Americans by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and they continue on with impunity,” Amir told Congress in the words dictated from prison to his family over the phone, adding that he believes Rezaian was seized during negotiations “undoubtedly in hopes of milking more concessions from the U.S. government.”
“As a war veteran who defended our nation in its time of need, I ask that you also work to defend my dignity and that of my fellow Americans by putting in place serious consequences for this serial hostage-taking and mistreatment of Americans by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence for clearly illegal purposes,” he added. “This has been going on far too long.”
Amir wrote Obama in December to say he was “deeply concerned that my future has become tied to the nuclear negotiations with Iran, with which I have no connection, influence or leverage.”
“I know that the climate between the United States and Iran is delicate. But I should not fall victim to it,” he said. “…I am an American who deserves basic human rights and his freedom. Instead, I feel as if I have been left behind.”
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who represents Rezaian’s district, said July 14 that he expects “to take full advantage of the 60-day review period before deciding how to vote on this important matter.”
In the same statement, he chided Republicans for “already attacking the proposed agreement in their usual blustering, hyperbolic manner.”
“While I will vote based on the merits of the agreement, Iran’s credibility and trustworthiness are also considerations. There is one very important action the Iranian regime can take to demonstrate its commitment to a new era of trust, goodwill and diplomacy with the international community: they could release the five innocent, unjustly imprisoned Americans including my constituent Jason Rezaian, a journalist for the Washington Post. I call upon Iran to do this now,” Huffman said. “These Americans are innocent and should have been released long ago. Releasing them now would be an important gesture of goodwill as the nuclear agreement hangs in the balance.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who represents Levinson’s district, has been critical of components of the nuclear deal in House Foreign Affairs Committee hearings. On July 14, he said he would judge the deal “by whether Iran’s nuclear weapons program will be halted, whether we will have the necessary access to it, whether the limitations imposed are strong enough and whether Iran is blocked from acquiring nuclear weapons” as well as “whether sanctions on the Iranian regime regarding arms sales, ballistic missiles, human rights violations, and support for terrorism remain firmly in place.”
“Guided by these principles, and in keeping in mind the four Americans still held in Iran, I will review the deal closely, and I am sure every member of Congress will do the same,” Deutch said.
While he’s a likely “no” vote on the deal, Abedini’s congressman, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) is even more likely to vote against it.
“The Iranian government claims to want constructive engagement with the world. Yet, Iran refuses to free Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned since 2012,” Labrador said in a mid-month statement.
“Last month the House unanimously called for the release of the U.S. citizens held in Iran, as well as information on any Americans who have disappeared. That these men remain captive is deeply disturbing and raises foundational questions of trust that should have been addressed before striking any deal with Iran.”