The editors of The Washington Post celebrated Iran’s release of their reporter Jason Rezaian along with three other Americans in exchange for Iranian prisoners, but nonetheless warned in an editorial published Sunday that absent stronger action from the administration, “Iran’s attacks on Americans and vital U.S. interests will surely continue.”
The editorial noted that the four American-Iranian dual citizens that were held by Iran were exchanged for seven Iranians serving time in American jails, as well as an American promise to drop pursuit of fourteen other individuals. Most of those held by the United States, The Wall Street Journal noted, “were tied to violations of U.S. export laws and the sales of dual-use equipment that could be used in Iran’s military or nuclear program.”
The Post pointed out, in contrast, that Rezaian, “who was held for 544 days, committed no crime and should have never been arrested. He was not a convict but a political hostage. His freeing and that of the other Americans ends a gross injustice.”
Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi were detained at a time when the United States had recently agreed to extend an interim nuclear agreement with Iran. Salehi was subsequently released, but Rezaian continued to be held by Iranian authorities, who “repeatedly violated Iran’s own laws” by severely limiting his contact with the lawyer, failing to inform either him or his lawyer of the verdict or sentence, and refusing to release him “in the absence of a public conviction.”
At critical points in the nuclear negotiations, Iranian authorities would make often contradictory comments about Rezaian’s status. The Post noted that “the most honest explanation of his imprisonment came in media accounts that accused him of conspiring to improve relations between the United States and Iran, something that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has sworn to prevent.”
Mr. Rezaian’s release, and that of fellow Americans Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, is unlikely to alter that policy or Iran’s transgressions of international law. The International Atomic Energy Agency certified Saturday that Iran had complied with the initial requirements of the nuclear deal, including shipping 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium out of the country and putting thousands of centrifuges into storage. That allowed the government of Hassan Rouhani to gain access to tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets as well as the lifting of sanctions on the country’s banks and oil industry in advance of parliamentary elections next month.
Since the accord was signed, however, Iran has twice violated a separate U.N. Security Council resolution prohibiting testing of long-range missiles. It continues to hold at least one American, businessman Siamak Namazi; another, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, remains missing. (Tehran separately released a detained American student Saturday). Possibly because of its interest in completing the prisoner swap, the Obama administration’s response has been weak: It withdrew the modest sanctions it had prepared in response to the missile launches.
The Post and Mr. Rezaian’s family will celebrate his safe return and that of the other Americans. But in the absence of a firmer U.S. policy, Iran’s attacks on Americans and vital U.S. interests will surely continue.
In May, before global powers reached a nuclear deal with Iran, the Post warned that its reporter’s treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities suggested that businesses seeking to establish commercial ties with Iran put their employees at risk of arbitrary arrest. Indeed, after the nuclear agreement was announced, the State Department warned that Americans visiting Iran were subject to detention and imprisonment on false charges.
A Post editorial in December 2014 asked, “If Iranian officials are unresponsive in the case of Mr. Rezaian, how can they be expected to deliver on commitments they make with respect to the nuclear program?”
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