Day Zero: As July 4th passes by, where do we go from here?

So here we are, July 4, 2014 is passing by and no Americans have been released by Iran. There have been no prisoner swaps using Iranian spies and criminals that the U.S. holds now in Federal prisons. And a nuclear agreement with Iran by July 20 is not certain; talks could fail completely or be extended with nothing to show for the past year of efforts.

As of July 4th, the Day most Americans celebrate Freedom, three of our citizens are wrongly, and cruelly, held in Iran. (We are aware that more Americans are held in other places, but these three have been held in a nation that until 2014, for over 34 years, the U.S. has not had diplomatic relations.) This includes:

Former FBI agent Robert ‘Bob’ Levinson held 2675 days; or 7 years, 3 months and 26 days. Former Marine Amir Hekmati held 1039 days; that’s 2 years, 10 months and 4 days. And Pastor Saeed Abedini has been away from his family 707 days; or 1 year, 11 months and 7 days.

CNN Sciutto all 3 Screenshot 2014-02-18From January 1 to July 4 there are 184 days (6 full months and 4 days). began a 184-day countdown on January 1, 2014 believing that would allow sufficient time for open and honest negotiations to result in freedom for all three men.

Looking back, when it was revealed in late 2013 that the U.S. had been meeting secretly for years with Iranian officials building up to the open talks, many believed at the time a golden opportunity was squandered. Why wasn’t Iran required at that time to give up these known hostages first as a goodwill gesture or confidence builder BEFORE the U.S. would sit down to negotiate face-to-face? After we did agree to meet, the U.S. was required to set in motion the loosening of sanctions and the release of Billions of dollars to Iran. Iran would also be allowed to export more oil, which they have exceeded every month since February. So Iran should have had plenty of incentive to not only sit down to talk, but also to be compelled to release the U.S. hostages.

The current six-moth agreement was first announced in November. However, due to haggling over terms, the actual agreement which loosened economic sanctions on Iran and released Billions of dollars to Iran (while Iran did nothing except agree to talk), an interim or temporary agreement began officially on January 20, 2014. Thus, July 20 is the “deadline date” in the six-month countdown. Rumors have been leaked that another 10 days may be informally added to the deadline, or formally for another six months, if both sides agree.

With July 20 approaching, the parties are meeting more frequently with a sense of urgency. Both sides state that an agreement is within reach by the deadline “if the other side will be more reasonable.” Certainly it would not be novel for Iran to run out the clock and give up nothing and/or agree to tack on another 6 months.

The U.S. State Department’s lead negotiator, Wendy Sherman, had the same role back in the 1990’s Clinton Administration. The Iran negotiations broke up  with no agreement, just as they did with North Korea, also under Wendy Sherman. North Korea went on to build nuclear bombs and cooperate with Iran on missile technology. Iran’s lead negotiator in the 1990’s is the current Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani.  And the current Supreme Leader, the Grand Ayatollah Khameini, was in power then as now.

So the West’s track record of negotiating with Iran is not exactly filled with noteworthy accomplishments.

As of July 4, 2014 is adjusting its countdown to July 31 – adding 27 more days (that’s nearly 4 weeks!). 

On August 1, if all three Americans have not yet been released by Iran to American authorities, the U.S. must insist that Iran will do a number of things:

1) All three Americans must be freed prior to extending negotiations with Iran, even it is only another ‘temporary’ extension like the first agreement. This is the time of United State’s best leverage – now!  I submit U.S. leverage will decline indefinitely should talks continue without a gesture of goodwill by Iran. They will respond to toughness; not weakness.

2) No more billions of US dollars or gold or any other resources – ZERO – should be unfrozen, monetized or transferred to Iran as a result of loosening economic sanctions. That means the U.S. should return to tighter sanctions until there is a final agreement with Iran.  If Iran needs access to their frozen dollars badly enough they could make an agreement within a week.  And that includes releasing three Americans!

If the P5+1 collectively, or the U.S. acting alone, gives in to extending talks with the already loosened sanctions in place, Iran wins! Iran wins if they are not required to show any goodwill or sincerity in the talks.

If negotiations continue on a status quo basis, not only will U.S. leverage become weaker on nuclear issues, but on all issues, including the release of the American hostages.

3) The excessive and free flow of Iranian oil beyond the monthly output level that was agreed to on January 20 needs to be called out by the West and halted. It is not helpful that China, Russia and European nations have already expressed growing interest in Iran’s oil and aiding their energy programs.

4) Russia should be sanctioned by the other P5+1 nations for negotiating a side deal worth $1.5 Billion per month known as ‘oil for goods.’ If/when this bartering system is implemented Russia will continue building nuclear facilities and provide other Russian goods and services in exchange for Iranian oil.

5) Finally, the main intent of the current six-months of nuclear talks is to realize the cessation, not simply a paring back, of Iran’s nuclear weapons programs. During any extended talks, Iran must agree to ongoing stringent UN/IAEA inspections and verification.



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(L to R) Robert ‘Bob’ Levinson with a small part of his family; he has a wife, several children and grandchildren, mostly residing in FL. Pastor Saeed Abedini and his wife Naghmeh have 2 small children in ID. Former Marine Amir Hekmati and his family live in MI and AZ.

What can YOU do about the three Americans held in Iran?

I recently received this email from the White House PR people:

White House-seal

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Subject:  POTUS Replies

June 24, 2014

“Every day, the Office of Presidential Correspondence sorts through thousands of letters. Every night, President Obama reads 10 [ten] of them.

Some people write to share what his decisions mean in their daily lives, to talk about the economy, or to ask a question about a policy. Others just write in to say hello.

Each letter is a chance for President Obama to hear directly from folks across the country about the sorts of issues they face every day.”


The White House email went on to say that for each of the ten letters selected , POTUS actually dictates a response to them. That’s 70 replies per week, right? encourages you to send a polite, yet firm, email or physical letter asking the President to do EVERYTHING in his power to bring back Pastor Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Robert Levinson as part of the current negotiations with Iran.

The President is already familiar with their names and circumstances. So keep your letter brief and respectful, if you want to have a chance of your letter being selected. The President can’t read them all, but if hundreds or even thousands of them are sent regarding the three Americans held in Iran, he is likely to read some!

If you get a reply, please email or tweet us at FreeAllThree.



Twitter: @ freeallthree

Email: daniel @ freeallthree .com



Iran was given 6 months to show good faith regarding their nuclear weapons programs. America must insist that no more billions of US dollars, gold or other resources will be unfrozen and transferred to Iran as a result of further sanctions loosening. Nor should oil exports flow freely to other nations, including Russia that has negotiated a side deal worth $1.5 billion per month known as ‘oil for goods.’ With this bartering system, Russia would continue to build Iran’s nuclear facilities in exchange for Iranian oil, bypassing the banking system, and then re-selling it on the open market. Finally, the main purpose of the current negotiations, the cessation of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, must be realized and continually verified.