Also Steven Erlanger, in today’s NY Times, referring to a U.S. State Department official traveling with Kerry, wrote, “Mr. Kerry also raised the cases of three American citizens detained or missing in Iran and urged that they be returned to their homes.“
This is a far cry from the stance held by both Kerry and President Obama immediately after the November 25 agreement was signed. They insisted past and future talks will ONLY pertain to Iran’s nuclear program.
Recognize this for what it is: a small yet extremely important step that provides more than a glimmer of hope! We believe the efforts by many people, attorneys, elected officials.
Let’s keep Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, emailing, texting, calling and old-fashioned letter writing until all three are free! On Twitter, use the #FFF hashtag, “Fighting For Freedom,” to remind supporters to blast out every 4th of the month. Demand that the President and Congress act to return all three men to their families before July 4th!
- U.S. Secretary of State, Iranian foreign minister meet on sidelines at security conference
- They talked about Iran’s agreement to halt its most sensitive nuclear operations
- In November, Iran said it would stop some in exchange for lessening of sanctions
- They also discussed Americans held by Iran, U.S. official says
– U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stepped to the sidelines for a private conversation at a security conference in Germany on Sunday, according to a senior State Department official.
Their discussion marks another high-level contact between the United States and Iran, a few weeks ahead of nuclear negotiations involving world powers planned for February 18 in Vienna. The negotiations follow Iran’s agreement in November to stop its most sensitive nuclear operations in exchange for a lessening of some sanctions that have hurt the nation.
“Kerry reiterated the importance of both sides negotiating in good faith and Iran abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action,” the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, the senior official said.
On another topic, “Secretary Kerry pressed for the Iranians to work cooperatively with us in our efforts to help United States citizens Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini to return to their families,” the official said.
Levinson disappeared from Iran seven years ago. Members of Levinson’s family said on CNN in January that, at that time, he was working for the CIA. They accused the U.S. government of failing to do enough to find and free him.
Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, was arrested in Iran in August 2011 and held on espionage charges. The Obama administration has said he is not a spy.
Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor, is also jailed, accused of proselytizing Christianity during a trip to Iran. He was accused of attempting to undermine the Iranian government and endangering national security. Abedini’s family says he being held in a dangerous prison.
Hekmati and Abedini could receive reduced sentences, Zarif said in an interview less than two weeks ago from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“We have various clemency measures in Iran that can be introduced, happened in the past, can be introduced again in these cases,” Zarif said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto.
[Emphases and photo above added]
On January 22 the NY Times and CNN published similar comments by Iran’s FM Zarif regarding potential clemency. That sparked these observations from Freeallthree.com:
During the past 34 years since the U.S. Embassy takeover in 1979, the United States and Iran have not been on speaking terms. Officially, that is.* There have been no Embassies or Consulates, no Ambassadors or cultural exchanges – just simmering hostility and distrust.
Most American over age 50 will recall the indignation the U.S. experienced following the Embassy takeover in 1979 until it was finally resolved in 1981.
It was a ‘crisis’ we watched and waited for to be over. TV news and everyone at the water cooler discussed every nuance. Most people then could not find Iran on a map without labels even with three guesses. The days turned into weeks, then into months with no resolution. Day after day people bemoaned the feckless U.S. administration of Jimmy Carter and a general malaise fell over the country – due in part to the ‘Iran Crisis’ and a poor economy.
After a failed military rescue attempt, Iran scattered the 52 American hostages around the country so that future rescue attempts would be impossible. But by late summer 1980 they were all brought back to Tehran … for reasons unknown.
From November 1980 until their release in January 1981, the hostages stayed at the Teymour Bakhtiari Mansion in Tehran, where they were finally provided tubs, showers, hot and cold running water, better food and medical care.
After their return to the U.S., the hostages speculated that the Iranians did not want it to appear they were physically abused in any way. But in fact they were. Iran even had the audacity to refer to them as ‘guests’ throughout the ordeal.
On January 20, 1981, at the exact moment Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States, the wheels literally began to turn. While Reagan delivered his 20-minute Inaugural Address, the 52 American hostages were released by Iran into U.S. custody through an intermediary nation and flown out of the country.
We said all this to say that small, seemingly insignificant, movements in Iran may lead to larger developments later on. In the short run improved medical care and security might follow for the men. News leaks may be used to prepare the Iranian public for a prisoner swap arrangement. Undoubtedly Iran’s hardliners will demand something in return.
We don’t want to raise false hopes, but one cannot deny that since the November 2013 U.S.-Iran ‘thaw’ and the beginning of official face-to-face talks with Iran, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity ever since.
Many believe the U.S. lost a huge bargaining advantage when it agreed to meet Iran face-to-face in 2013 with no pre-conditions. There was no cessation of any part of Iran’s nuclear program. And there was certainly no significant humanitarian gesture of releasing any of the three American hostages held today.
In fact, the opposite occurred throughout 2013! We know that the Iranian nuclear program was spinning full speed ahead and was actually expanded. Further, the new agreement, signed in November, 2013 did not take effect until January 20, 2014 allowing more time to add equipment, including the so-called next-generation centrifuges.
Additionally, we know that one hostage-prisoner, Pastor Saeed Abedini, was moved to an even worse prison after President Obama’s 15-minute phone call to Rouhani. Abedini was sent into a situation where he had to fend for himself among Iran’s most violent criminals, many of them murderers. That’s one reason this writer isn’t entirely impressed with Iranian President Rouhani’s ‘charm offensive.’ We await actions that are consistent with the friendly words.
* As proof of Iran-U.S. secret talks and past prisoner swaps, FreeallThree.com produced a 7-year timeline graph. It refutes the Obama Administration’s official assertions that the U.S. had no direct lines of communications with Iran, and therefore were not in a position to ask for the release of these men. From 2010-2013 several prisoner swaps were not only discussed, they were carried out! But not for Bob Levinson, Amir Hekmati or Saeed Abedini! Go to this link to view the timeline: http://wp.me/s49SUn-1688