Congressional Support for New Iran Sanctions; Do they Improve or Hurt Hostage Negotiations?

For the sake of three hostages held in Iran, we submit here 10 reasons why the U.S. should not  impose tougher, new sanctions during the next six months.

Capitol-Senate end-wiki(first published December 20, 2013; significant revisions have been; therefore re-published)

Two days ago, the U.S. Senate surprised everyone when a bill was introduced to impose more strict sanctions on Iran. It surprised even Majority Leader Harry Reid, who coincidently took ill and is in hospital for tests. The bill had no chance of immediate passage, because Reid simply refused to bring the matter up for a vote.  However, when the Senate reconvenes in January, the bill may be taken up. The President meanwhile made it clear that he would veto the bill if passed.

Looking at this strictly from an Israeli point-of-view, one might conclude that stricter measures should be imposed on Iran … if no permanent agreement is reached on the elimination of Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities within SIX MONTHS. That specific length of time is important and will be discussed later.

However, as a supporter of the causes of Saeed Abedini, a Christian Pastor, Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, and former-retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, I do not support the attempt to pass new legislation in Congress … during the next six months. Reluctantly, I must side with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama on this.

I say reluctantly, because there is almost no other point of agreement that I have on the newly thawed relations we have now with Iran. Since late November when Obama made his famous 15-minute telephone call to Iran’s Rouhani, everything changed diplomatically. The new Iranian President was in NY appearing at the U.N. and giving interviews to U.S. media outlets. CNN’s Amanpour declared him to be the “It man” in NY that everybody wanted to talk to and have a picture with.  Even President Obama wanted to orchestrate a hallway handshake, but that was apparently too much too soon for the Iranians. So Obama flew back to Washington and talked later by phone to Mr. Rouhani.

smiling or laughing at USI disagree with almost every other step in the Administration’s handling of Iran in the past several years, but do I agree with their plea now not to enact more sanctions during the next SIX MONTHS.

However the following article contains a common argument heard in Congress lately and it appears that a proposed bill will be voted on in January, having bi-partisan support, in spite of White House protests.

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil writes in her ‘The Times of Israel’ report, December 20, 2013:

Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Board of Trustees says, “We recognize economic sanctions have been successful in bringing Iran to the negotiating table, as well as in expressing the resolve of the global community,” Siegal added. “The threat of additional sanctions, with the appropriate Presidential waivers in this legislation, ensures that Iran knows this and all other options are on the table should negotiations fail.” [Their proposal also included the threat of U.S. military intervention should Israel be attacked.]

Link to full article:

Ten reasons why new sanctions should not be imposed (the most important one is last!):

1. The U.S. began loosening sanctions, as the President had the authority to do, well before the November thaw. It was an inducement to Iran to come to the bargaining table.  This meant that Iran started to enjoy trade benefits that it did not have previously, for at least ten months by waiving some existing sanctions. The American public did not know this.

2. In fact secret talks have been ongoing for 2-3 years. This was learned after the November 24 deal. The talks were helpful, we were told, in getting Iran to the bargaining table over nuclear issues, but they also involved prisoner swaps. I will describe these secret prisoner releases in more detail later. For now, remember the three hikers in 2009 who accidentally crossed into Iran, allegedly, and were imprisoned? The two males were held for over two years, while the lone female was held just over one year. She was released ‘on humanitarian’ grounds due to medical needs and a $500,000 bail payment that was made by a mysterious intermediary from Oman. The same intermediary was later used to obtain the release of the two young men a year later on September 21, 2011, each having paid (for them) $500,000 bail to the Omani rep, which was presumably shared with Iran.

  Iran-Hikers AP PRESsTV omani sheik and rouhani shake hands aug 25 13 Iranian scientist Mojtaba Atarodi apr 27 arv Tehran

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, center-right, shakes hands with Omani Sultan Qaboos, who made the prisoner release and bail arrangements, in Tehran, Iran. (photo credit: AP/Iranian Presidency Office, Hojjat Sepahvand). The three American hikers, left, and freed Iranian nuclear scientist Mojtaba Atarodi upon arrival in Tehran April 25, 2013.

Why bring this up now ? The three foolish, but innocent, hikers were released after serving hard time in Evin prison, mostly solitary, and ‘someone’ paying $1.5 million to get them out. In fact they were made ’cause celeb’ in Hollywood and other parts back in 2009-2011. What did the U.S. do? We released three lower level Iranian prisoners in 2012. They were arrested trying to buy parts that were illegal in the U.S. for sales to Iran – parts that could be used in the illegal nuclear program as well as for military use. And just this past April, a top Iranian nuclear scientist who was in the U.S. acting the part as an educator. Mr. Mojtaba Atarodi was released in the same manner as the initial three: quietly and in the dead of night with no cameras.  He was in Iran the next day. Again, 99.9% of the American public had no idea we released four Iranian prisoners in the past 12-18 months. Today that number is probably at 99%!

3. So, we have seen that both sides, Iran and the U.S., want to trade prisoners and are able to. How the four spies/mystery shoppers were to three innocent hikers I do not understand. The release of the nuclear scientist alone was a big deal to Iran. He was welcomed home as a hero….and Iran won the chess game without giving up a thing.  Besides, the hikers went to trial, were convicted as spies and served hard time and then someone paid $1.5 million to be free.  So I would hardly call this a tit-for-tat prisoner swap.

Kerry P5 and Iran shaking hands Nov 24 13 AP n Carolyn Kaster4. Well then, what did the U.S. get? I’ll answer that in the next point. But it must be said at this very point, from  April to November 2013, which is over SIX MONTHS, that the U.S. should have made itself very clear about the three American prisoners still wrongly held in Iran. The U.S. released a high value nuclear scientist in April of this year and earlier three others; now we want all three, not one, not two, but THREE AMERICANS RETURNED AS A PRE-CONDITION TO FURTHER LOOSENING OF SANCTIONS. Only then should we continue face-to-face talks on Iran’s illegal nuclear program and discuss how many more U.S. $Billions will be released.

5. If the three Americans, Abedini, Hekmati and Levinson, were not worthy agenda topics for the first SIX-MONTH Agreement, what will make them worthy in the final agreement? Based on John Kerry’s and President Obama’s and his representatives’ statements, NOTHING!  This is wrong!

6. Again I ask: what did we get from releasing four Iranian criminals from U.S. prisons for three young American hikers?  We received the privilege of Iran’s presence at nuclear discussions held in Geneva in November 2013. However, with everyone gathered around and ready to sign, including Kerry and Putin, the talks broke up abruptly because of France’s objections. “This is a suckers deal” the French said.  What changed? And how bad was it then? After a two-week hiatus the P5+1 delegation reconvened for a few days. A changed word here and a changed word there. Then presto the deal was now ready for the ‘big guns’ to fly in and seal the deal. They did so in the wee hours Sunday, November 24. There’s was congratulatory back slapping all around.  Except for people back in the United States who were scratching their heads thinking “What just happened?”

And don’t forget the U.S. was required to immediately start releasing several Billions of U.S. dollars of relief to Iran as well a few billion dollars worth of gold bullion. The total value or net benefit to Iran was about $9 billion by some reports and lower by others.

Jay Carney presserFew outside the U.S. Administration could understand why this deal was made. And did you notice how quickly? Since we know that secret talks were carried on for months, even years, the U.S. side did not want the public to know because about them because it was calculated there would be pushback on the deal itself and outrage among the families and supporters of three American men held hostage. Thus it came up and passed by just as fast. The most transparent Administration? White House reporters and elected representatives were apoplectic. It was a rare moment of bi-partisan opposition in the U.S. House and  Senate.

7. Just a few weeks later, the negotiating teams met for the first time, and Iran walked out and flew home! At this writing they have since resumed technical talks.  Many people are not aware that the SIX-MONTH deal’s start date has not yet been determined! Presumably, if Iran agrees, it will start in January. So the so-called SIX-MONTH deal will be at least EIGHT months or longer.  I say longer because Iran’s history of delays, walk outs and misinformation dictates that an extensionof time should be anticipated.

8. This brings me to the question of adding on more sanctions in view of the President’s and his team’s past loosening of existing sanctions … the U.N. and international community still has sanctions in place. In fact this is why the Iran negotiators walked out of the first session in early December:  because we were still enforcing sanctions! We don’t need additional harsh sanctions. And it would be breaking a promise, apparently, made by Secretary of State Kerry, in Geneva in November.

9. Another reason to disagree with those calling for tougher sanctions now on Iran- (I want to make clear I’m not an Israel hater … in fact I support Israel and undivided Jerusalem and pray for her Peace):

The U.S. is not enforcing all of the current sanctions that it could. This is partly by choice and partly due to recent agreements, formal and otherwise (i.e. Presidential discretion). I understand the desire or temptation to add new sanctions and threats. But it’s like making your diet even more strict, when you are already cheating on the diet you’re on. It may make you feel better about yourself, but it changes nothing!

It was sanctions that finally brought the Iranians to face-to-face meetings.  They want something. They need something.  They want and need lots of Billions of U.S. dollars and gold bullion that we are holding as well as unfettered trade around the world. They aren’t afraid of the Obama Administration starting a war over this. Was Assad afraid to use chemical weapons after a red line was drawn?

Need more proof, on the very eve of the second get round of Geneva talks in November the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, the real power in Iran, went out of his way to publicly call Israel and the ones who support her as less than human! The world has taken note of Obama’s desire to avoid at all costs the calamities of war; he is after all a Nobel Peace prize winner! And that’s what Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Assad waved in his face as he was weighing options regarding bombing Syria. (You’ll recall they went over the Red Line.) Russia threw a life line out and Obama caught it.

10. The main reason to oppose tough new Iran sanctions is the fate of three American hostages, for at least six months; is two-fold:

a. Now that we have the current asymmetric deal with Iran in place, why risk the SIX-MONTH deal’s success any further? It could fall apart for a host of reasons, none of which involve sanctions.  So why provide a built-in excuse for the Iranians and Obama/Kerry to say that is why the agreement collapsed. Iran would say the U.S. acted in bad faith and can’t be trusted. Messrs. Obama and Kerry will say, “I told you so.”

amir fb hope on a rockb. I actually prefer and hope that the current SIX-MONTH agreement will be successful…if terms for the release of three Americans are included or made a pre-condition. I am not happy how we got to this point; i.e. agreeing to face-to-face talks with no pre-conditions. But here we are.

Even with a new agreement, Iran could develop nuclear weapons in a short amount of time. Afterall, they just bought themselves at least 8 (not 6) more months!  North Korea did the talk and stall trick in the 1990’s under Clinton and we had the same negotiator then: Ms. Wendy Sherman. Iran has been ‘talking’ for over a decade with no resulting curtailment to their pursuit of nukes.

So I ask: “What is the best way to get the three American hostages out of Iran?”  There are the ongoing individual efforts by the three families and their attorneys with  little or no assistance from the U.S. Government. (Although the FBI did put up a $1 million reward in March 2012- on the sixth anniversary of Bob Levinson’s capture.)  The best way, I believe in the circumstances we find ourselves in is through continued respectful dialog with Iran, and with our U.S. Administration (it is regrettable I have to add that last part), to make the release of all three men a priority, a HIGH PRIORITY.  IN FACT THE HIGHEST PRIORITY FOR THE NEXT SIX-MONTHS. I believe there is strength in numbers and a united effort.

Based on what I able to see in our ‘transparent’ society, this is not a priority for Wendy Sherman, the lead negotiator with Iran, John Kerry or our President. We are told very little about the three hostages’ plight, so I must judge based on a few condescending platitudes. The Administration touted their ‘historic agreement’ as a huge diplomatic, and political, win. And the permanent agreement is just over the horizon … and nothing will be allowed to get in their way. But, how dare they think that way!

Even if a nuclear weapons deal is made, it can be broken by Iran quite easily, as we have seen in the past. Mr. President you empathized frequently and publicly when a man and young boy were abused, in your opinion. How about now?  Will you speak up for these three men by name? All three have been held and abused much longer now than the 444 days that 52 Americans were held during Jimmy Carter’s term. Don’t you realize that the Office you hold and the chair you sit in used to mean something around the world?  It still could!

obama quoteI’m sorry Mr. President, there will be no face-saving nuclear agreement, if three American citizens are not brought back home within the next SIX-MONTHS!

amir fb mlk 5I am just a man with a computer, time, and an internet connection. I am not a professional writer so I apologize for any mistakes that make you crazy. I’ll try to fix that. But I do have a passion. Someone might ask: “Why are you so interested in these three men held in Iran?” There are people, including several Americans and many Christians that are persecuted around the world.” Without getting into why others are in prisons, rightly or wrongly, God has put a burden in my heart to do this, which I hope only takes 6 or 7 months since I want to do other things.

This is my Job #1. Admittedly, it started with Pastor Saeed Abedini’s plight. Not only the impact on him, which is horrendous, but on his family in both the U.S. and Iran.  I got angry. At Iran of course first. But I thought, “How can Americans generally and Christians specifically ignore this man’s plight?

Then I read about Amir Hekmati, a good young man. Born in the U.S. to Iranian immigrants and served honorably in the U.S. Marines 4 years and afterwards helped our Military in Iraq/Afghanistan as an interpreter. He’s been held over 2 years and was convicted once of spying with a death sentence, but a higher court ordered a new trial which has never been scheduled.

You can read Amir’s Story along with Saeed’s and Bob’s on this website under tabs on Home page.

Thirdly, and certainly not  last, Robert Levinson, 65, snatched from the Iranian island of Kish over 6 years ago – will be 7 years in March. He’s been in the news a lot the past 2 weeks due to a major AP story (there’s a link to it in Recent Posts). Bob’s an American who served his country well for over 33 years. He deserves better. Our government told us a lie about his disappearance initially and it continued until the AP story came out December 12. 2013.  Thank God for Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, the co-writers who held their story 3 years at the government’s request. Jay Carney of the WH called the publishing of it “foolish and reckless.” Really, compared to what?

(Note: Goldman recently moved over to the Washington Post and Apuzzo went to the NY Times. Both have a passion for this story too, regarding Mr. Levinson, and governmental wrongdoing generally.)

amir fb mandela quote impossibleI don’t know about you, but I cannot and will not rest until I see these three Americans returned to their families and America.  . This has gone on too long. Most of us have zero access to President Rouhani or the Ayatollah in Iran. But in America we do have access to our Government. Our Government!  We need to respectfully let the President and his team that surrounds him, know who they are dealing with. We are a righteously outraged American public, disappointed that so much effort, time and money must be spent and tears shed for something that should have been so easy to accomplish. And it still is! Many of us are praying folks! So whoever POTUS thinks he’s dealing with, he should think again. This includes newly appointed White House aide, from the Clinton era, John Podesta.

America Held Hostage-Again! Bring all three men back within SIX-MONTHS…by July 4, 2014!

amir fb I always why

This is why I began the “America Held Hostage-Again!” website and @FreeAllThree Twitter. I may do Facebook too. I am praying that Americans in increasing numbers and with increasing volume will let ALL their federally elected representatives know that this is Priority #1.

This has to do with American pride too, right? John Kerry is no longer an elected official and does not need to listen to voters. The same, really, for the President, but I believe he will want to save face for himself and for the United States and he will eventually listen.

We the people need to contact POTUS in creative, respectful, ways as well as Senators and U.S. House members who still depend on our votes. Remember that every House member stands for re-election November 2014, along with 1/3 of the Senators. This should not require arm twisting. Once Congress and the President listens and becomes better informed, it should be an easy, common sense direction for future talks with iran.

I do NOT favor stopping talks with iran.  It will only be through talking and making a proper agreement that the U.S. can free the three hostages. Iran will not do this voluntarily. They are waiting to bargain now!

The President himself has to favor this and make it happen!

If you are age 50 and over, you probably recall vividly the 52 Iranian hostages held by Iran from 1979-81. But do you remember they were released at the very moment Ronald Reagan took his oath as the 40th President of the United States. We cannot wait three more years to bring these men home. The three hostages themselves cannot, and should not have to, wait another year.

Iran is waiting for us to ask in earnest for their release!  Like it means something to US!They aren’t going to wake up one day and decide to hand them over because they are nice guys (unless God speaks to the Ayatollah like He did to a former Persian leader 2500 years ago)!

Right now is our best opportunity to bring them all home within SIX-MONTHS.  At the  bargaining table with Iran, this is all they should be hearing:



open.php?u=30011389& launched on January 1 a SIX-MONTH countdown ‘clock’ – actually 184 days – to July 4, 2014. That’s four extra days for both U.S. and Iran negotiators to get this done! I hope there will be a groundswell of attention given to the 3 hostages’ plight. I believe it will take American pride, work, unity and prayers to return these three men to their families. They been held far too long now. Some may say, “Why six months?” I don’t want it to take fully six months, and I surely don’t want it to be longer than six-months!

July 4th is a redline date Mr. President!