US swaps prisoners with Iran in deal

By Tom Ballard
Opinions Editor

For 544 days, the Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian was detained by Iranian authorities since his arrest in July 2014. Rezaian was one of four Americans released by the government of Iran on Saturday, Jan. 16, according to the Washington Post.

In exchange for the release of the four Americans, the U.S. released seven prisoners — one Iranian and six with dual citizenship with the U.S. and Iran, CNN reported. In the move, which President Barack Obama called a “one-time gesture,” the seven men were allegedly involved in exporting products and services to Iran that were in violation of the economic sanctions in place against the Middle East country. The goods exported included electronic components and satellite services to Marine navigation and military equipment.

Rezaian celebrates his new freedom. AP Photo.
Rezaian celebrates his new freedom. (AP Photo)

According to NBC News, in addition to Rezaian, the other U.S. prisoners being held and then released by the Islamic republic included Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who had been imprisoned since 2011 while visiting the country to see his grandmother, and Saeed Abedini, an American-Iranian Christian pastor who was born in Iran and lived in Idaho before he was convicted in an Iranian court in 2013 for “undermining national security.” Hekmati’s crime was establishing Christian churches in Iran.

The fourth American released was Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, ABC News reported. Khosravi-Roodsari, whose imprisonment was not publicly reported until after his release, chose to stay in the Islamic republic after his release. According to an email ABC News received from a senior administrative official, “When it comes to Roodsari, privacy considerations preclude (the administration) from offering any more details.”

The Washington Post reported that the exchange came after Iran and the six world powers — the U.S., China, Germany, France, Russia and the U.K.— led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, implemented an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

“This evening, we are really reminded once again of diplomacy’s power to tackle significant challenges,” Kerry said, according to the Washington Post. “We have approached this challenge with the firm belief that exhausting diplomacy before choosing war is an imperative. And we believe that today marks the benefits of that choice.”

The deal implemented on Saturday, Jan. 16, between the six world powers and Iran ended years of economic sanctions that were crippling the Iranian economy in return for the verified dismantlement of much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

The prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Iran, which was not official in the agreement, came days after Iran released 10 U.S. sailors that were captured as a result of “poor navigation, failed communications equipment and a stalled engine” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed support for the day’s events and posted on Twitter that “it’s now time for all — especially Muslim nations — to join hands and rid the world of violent extremism. Iran is ready.”