~ Our original mission has been accomplished, partly. Our main objective at ‘FreeAllThree.com’ in mid-2013 was to raise awareness among Americans that there were, at the time, three men held hostage in Iran, not one or two. Three Americans were held against their wills in Iran. They were: Robert “Bob” Levinson, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini.
~At that time each family was pursuing freedom for their loved one the best way they knew how. They received private legal advice and verbal support from various branches of the Federal government. And they all took to social media to raise individual awareness of their loved ones’ fate in a country, and among its leaders, who seemed distracted by other important events and challenges facing the nation. Mrs. Levinson and Mrs. Abedini even met with President Obama on different occasions.
~Mrs. Levinson met the President and FBI director in the oval office. A reward, now at $5 million, was announced for information leading to the safe return of Levinson, a former FBI/DEA agent. The President met Mrs. Abedini and her 2 children in their home state of Idaho. That was last January at which time the President promised the children that he would do his best to bring their father home by the son’s birthday in March … last March.
~Now another Holiday season has come with no news about any of the hostages; just more favors for Iran as a result of the “historical” nuclear deal.
President Obama: Bringing home all Americans held in Iran today is my “top priority.” January, 2014.
The Levinson’s were and are somewhat private, but from their frequent postings on the #HelpBobLevinson Facebook page one clearly sees that Mr. Levinson has a large and loving family who have never given up hope on seeing Bob again. The 8½ years since his disappearance have been an obvious strain. Bob got to know one of his grandchildren, but has several more now yet to meet!
Amir Hekmati was born in the United States to Iranian immigrants who fled the Iranian revolution of 1979. Amir served honorably in the US Marines and afterwards he continued to work as a cultural advisor and interpreter for US military branches in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pastor Saeed Abedini was a convert to Christianity while still living in Iran and was an active ambassador for his faith. He met and married an American-Iranian woman and eventually immigrated to the United States and became a US citizen and a church Pastor. Saeed either alone or with his wife and children made several trips back to Iran to see relatives and on his last trip he had planned to officially open a secular orphanage that had received all of the necessary government approvals and permits. But he was arrested by the IRGC (Revolutionary Guard that reports directly to the Ayatollah) for activities during a PRIOR visit years earlier. Actually the IRGC can and does arrest people for no reason at all, but Saeed was charged eventually with harming Iran’s national security.
We will continue to post new items here as warranted and at: http://www.FaceBook.com/IranReleaseAllAmericansNow and Twitter @FreeAllThree
Each of the initial 3 hostages held in Iran today have their unique stories, while the 52 American hostages taken in 1979 were all working at the US Embassy in Tehran when Iranian ‘students’ (hard core supporters of the Ayatollah) stormed the gates taking everyone hostage. Therefore Americans were greatly interested in the 1979-81 era hostages from the beginning. By contrast, in 2013 there was not much in the news on any of today’s hostages, much less all 3 of them in one TV report or news article. The reports were mainly press releases from a family member or attorney, through Facebook or Twitter posts or giving speeches in various locations.
But two things happened near the end of 2013 that changed everything and immediately raised interest among the American public.Following the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (seated photo left next to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) in July 2013, hopes were lifted that there would be significant reforms within Iran and warmer relations with the United States and the west. At the United Nations meetings in September 2013 and in the months that followed, several announcements were made and direct diplomatic meetings were held which led to the announcement in November 2013 that a six-month Joint Temporary Agreement was approved by the P5+1 (permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) plus Germany) and Iran. After two additional months to negotiate how to conduct the 6-month negotiations, the six-month agreement officially began in late January 2014. Iran was to be paid $700 million per month during the negotiations which were to be concluded within six months. However, it took several extensions and a total of 18 months to come up with a deal that was agreeable to all parties in July 2015. Earlier, other economic sanctions relief was granted to Iran, such as permission to sell oil, starting in January 2014. Also replacement airplane parts from Boeing and GE were approved by the President so that Iran could restore its commercial air service. So dollars have been flowing into Iran for some time now.
During this time the three families of American prisoners in Iran had hoped that their loved ones’ names and their dire circumstances would be discussed and resolved because the United States’ and Iran’s diplomats were sitting across the table from each other for hours. But of course, as explained countless of times by President Obama and State Department officials that “The Talks” were only on nuclear issues, not prisoner exchanges. However, as if obliged to say so, they usually added that talks about the hostages would take place on the “sidelines” of the official meetings on nuclear issues.
As July 2015 rolled around and a deal seemed ready to be done, there was still no word and certainly no action regarding what had now become a total of four American prisoners in Iran. The fourth being Jason Rezaian who was “disappeared” from his Tehran apartment, along with his wife, while on assignment for the Washington Post. That was in July 2014 and Jason remains today at Evin prison having been held hostage without charges for a year, but was charged as an American spy and has now been held for over 500 days.
Sadly, only recently, AFTER THE NUCLEAR DEAL was made a fifth American by the name of Siamak Namazi disappeared while visiting Iran on business. He too remains in Evin prison today. He and his family were native Iranians but his family currently lives and works out of Dubai. Siamak became a naturalized US citizen several years ago and was an advocate for the Iran deal. He was friendly toward the Iran government and was actively lining up business deals between Iranian and American firms.
The only conclusion one can come to is this: Iran has not changed any of its ways regarding the taking of Americans – and other westerners – without cause and continues to hold them without charges and no bail possibilities or on outrageous charges with extraordinarily high bails. It’s also reasonable to conclude – based on the inaction of the United States – that its leaders are comfortable leaving the 5 Americans where they are in Iranian hands! In the past year both France and the UK have successfully ended similar imprisonments of some or all of their nationals who were held in Iran. So why hasn’t the US been able to negotiate similar releases?
According to published Federal Prison statistics, the US now holds at least 19-25 Iranian nationals on various charges from spying to purchase of banned items under the sanctions regime … sanctions that are about to end under Obama’s direction, if the UN receives an acceptable report on Iran’s nuclear programs from the IAEA inspectors. Why there have not been loud and widespread calls from the public and Congress to have Obama make these prisoner swaps NOW is a mystery. Twenty Iranians for five Americans sounds about right!
Te original purpose of #FreeAllTthree was primarily to increase awareness of the 3 men’s unfair imprisonment in Iran among the US general public. Secondly, to encourage a more united action for all of the hostages by all concerned – mainly from individual supporters including social media, the families, their legal representatives and supportive members of Congress. All this to speak with a louder voice that would be harder to ignore. This last phase or goal has never really been achieved as we basically still have individual family efforts on separate tracks with no unified approach in contacting Congress or the President…or for that matter contacting the UN or Iranian officials. By comparison, in 1979-81 the national outrage and sense of indignation was organic and the public was fully engaged. Every day the evening news showed the number of days the Iranian hostages were held and kept the pressure on government to act.
We will continue to post new items here as warranted and at: http://www.FaceBook.com/IranReleaseAllAmericansNow and Twitter @FreeAllThree
Media coverage today for today’s hostages has increased over the past 2 years and almost always now, if someone reports on or writes about a specific prisoner, they usually refer to the others who are held, often by name. So the plight of today’s prisoners is in front of the public on a more regular basis now.
There is still no comparison to the 1979-1980 fervor and anger toward Iran in the United States when more than 52 hostages were taken by Iran and held at the captured US Embassy, and eventually were scattered around the country to prevent rescue attempts. The US President at the time, Jimmy Carter, seemed powerless and unable to act. The Ayatollah even had a motto which he said in speeches and was written on the wall of the American Embassy that there “wasn’t a damn thing the US can do about it.”
However a sea change took place when Ronald Reagan was elected in the fall of 1980. The Iranians got serious about releasing the 52 hostages and as one final snub and insult to Jimmy Carter, Iran released the hostages at the very hour Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th United States President. Some speculated that Iran did not want to find out what Mr. Reagan, perceived as a hawk, was prepared to do if the hostage situation continued under his presidency. I believe that was the case and a direct cause of the 52 hostages’ release.
Back in 2013 and in the early months of 2014 when there wasn’t anything happening in the nuclear talks or with the release of American hostages, I started to have thoughts of a repeat in history. Seeing no action by President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry – even simply calling out for Iran to release our men – it just seemed like weakness and malaise as during the Carter years. It seemed like prisoner releases or swaps weren’t going to happen under this President. During the nuclear negotiations it seemed like the West, led by the US, was always walking on eggshells not wanting to say anything that might upset the Iranians! It’s not like they were restraining themselves with their constant calls for “Death to America!” I never expressed this view in writing at any time or spoke this out but “Oh my God, I hope their release doesn’t have to wait until January 2017 when the next President is sworn in! Unthinkable! The men may not survive another year or more of harsh treatment in the harsh Iranian prison conditions.” I want to make it very clear that I do not believe that is what will happen; and I pray and believe that God will somehow intervene in the hearts of the two countries’ leaders. But the thought has crossed my mind I confess.
The men who are held today in Evin or other prisons around Iran are not being treated well at all. And Secretary of State John Kerry and the now-retired lead negotiator in the 1990’s and again in the Obama administration, Wendy Sherman, know this. As does the President, I hope. The hostages are abused daily, both mentally and physically; they are malnourished; they receive zero or insufficient medications and healthcare; they receive no official visits from United States diplomats or the International Red Cross/Crescent. Indeed Iran considers all of the men, except Levinson, to be Iranian citizens, not Americans. Iran does not recognize the dual nationality that the other four have, even if they were born in the United States. But since we have no official diplomatic relations, it is almost a moot point. But we must recall that secret talks were held before, pre-2013, when it was technically illegal by the Americans who participated, in order to set up the nuclear talks and arrange prisoner swaps!
Leading up to the start of nuclear talks in late 2013, the United States released four Iranians to “prime the pump” as a show of good faith regarding future dealings between the US and Iran. For its part, Iran released, for reportedly $500,000 bail each, three young American hikers who were captured on Iran’s northern border. So Iran got four of its own – real criminals – and the US got three hikers back to get the nuke talks started.
It is surprising that with the generous deal Iran was given by President Obama and the world and is about to receive $150 billion, that NOT ONE American was released on humanitarian grounds. Certainly all of them deserve to be home right now! In fact many, me included, believe the nuclear talks should not even have begun until all Americans (3 at the time) were released. But that didn’t happen. So the United States entered into the negotiations showing a naïve eagerness to get started without any good faith requirement from Iran. Nothing! Recall that the US loosened some economic sanctions immediately and made direct deposits to Iran in the amount of $700 MILLION PER MONTH in order for Iran to show up at meetings in 5-star hotels around the world for a year and a half! This set the tone for the rest of the negotiations which became a shopping list of what the US and world powers were willing to give up and that Iran would receive.
In the closing weeks of negotiations they seemed all but certain to conclude by the deadline of June 30 2014. But another two weeks were needed to deal with Iran’s last-minute requests that were backed by Russia and China. They pertained to the sale of conventional weapons and missile equipment, including, as we have since learned, the sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missiles like the one used to shoot down a commercial airplane over Ukraine last year. (This will be a certain danger to Israeli, US or NATO pilots should an attack on Iran be required in the future.) This clearly had nothing to do with a NUCLEAR program, so why was it discussed? It seemed to me and others that this would either be rejected out of hand by the US … OR it would be an opportunity for the United States to bring up a non-nuclear issue also: specifically freedom for the 4 Americans held by Iran! But that didn’t happen either! So the deal was made, including Iran’s last minute stocking stuffers, and it was passed the next business day in New York at the UNSC, controversially without so much as a vote or review in the US Congress! The President said
at the time (which people are just now beginning to understand) that the nuclear deal was not a treaty nor was his signature on it required. In fact no country including Iran has signed it! It’s basically what was called in former times a “gentlemen’s agreement” which was usually reserved for business dealings between trusted close friends or on golf courses! We were told in July 2015 that only a UNSC Resolution was needed to adopt the language of the negotiated agreement and that would start the clock ticking for its eventual Implementation Day! A strange way to run not just a country – but the world!
In conclusion for this website I want to say I’m pleased now that many in the American media when dealing with this subject, and also the prisoners’ families when giving interviews, often mention the other hostages and not just their loved one. As a result this issue has been raised frequently at Presidential and other press conferences. It is still nowhere close to the 1979-81 fervor and anger that Americans felt at that time, but in this era of splintered mass communications and social media one takes what one gets. And we are grateful for it!
A final thought or recommendation is to encourage the families, their attorneys and individual supporters to unite whenever possible. They could schedule and announce dates for peaceful demonstrations in Washington DC. Perhaps at the upcoming State of the Union in January or in the springtime. We hope this will not be necessary for much longer, but we are seeing no hopeful signals from the Obama administration. In fact most of the communications now between Iran and the US are via Twitter arguments and warmongering by Iran. We need to constantly tell the President of the United States and Congress that the American public has not forgotten these men and that they DARE NOT! They should be embarrassed, as we the people are, to the point where this becomes their “top priority” in reality and with actions, not just words!
God bless the families of the American hostages and the hostages themselves, of course. Bob, Amir, Saeed, Jason and Siamak! Pray that the United States’ leaders and negotiators use wisdom, make correct steps and relentlessly pursue the immediate release and freedom for all Americans held in Iran. And please God, let there be no more!
Note: We will continue to post new items here as warranted and at: http://www.FaceBook.com/IranReleaseAllAmericansNow and Twitter @FreeAllThree