'I Don't See a Way Out' for U.S. Hostages in Iran, Says Former Detainee
As three U.S. hostages -- one seized by North Korea during the Obama administration, two seized during the Trump administration -- fly home to the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was less certain about the outcome of other American detainees.
Speaking to the traveling press corps in Japan today, Pompeo was asked about the announcement of the Iran deal being scrapped at the same time negotiations with North Korea moved forward, and three hostages being liberated from Kim Jong-un's forced labor camps while more Americans languish in Iran's hellish prisons.
"People might say you’re leaving some Americans behind while you’re picking others," a reporter noted.
"Well, we’re doing our best to get them all back. There are Americans being held in several places, right. There are Americans detained in Syria as well," Pompeo said, not directly referring to journalist Austin Tice, kidnapped in 2012 and believed to be held by Bashar al-Assad's regime. "When I was the CIA director, I could see the State Department and all of the United States government was focused on getting every one of those Americans returned wherever they were."
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was detained on false espionage charges by Iran from November 2015 until January 2016, told CNN on Tuesday, "I don't see a way out for these people now. There is no more - no more mechanism to negotiate with the Iranians."
"The five Americans that are currently being held in Iran, and Bob Levinson, who we haven't heard about in about 11 years, these people are going to get lost in the shuffle, unfortunately," he said.
Morad Tahbaz of Weston, Conn., was among several current and former staffers of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation arrested on Jan. 24 and 25, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi claimed Saturday that members of the group "were gathering classified information in strategic fields under the guise of scientific and environmental projects." Tahbaz co-founded the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Iran and Persian Wildlife Foundation in the United States to help augment conservation hampered by small budgets and meager staff allocated by the Iranian government.
Around the time Tahbaz was taken, the attorney for Nizar Zakka, a permanent U.S. resident and IT specialist arrested in 2015 after Iran invited him to speak at a conference on women's entrepreneurship and employment, said that it is believed he has colon cancer but Iranian officials won't let him get treatment. Zakka has been sharing a cell at Tehran's notorious Evin prison with U.S. citizen and Princeton University doctoral student Xiyue Wang, who was arrested in August 2016 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison after officials claimed his academic research of late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history was espionage.