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Why Iran Deal Doesn’t Mean Freedom for American Hostages

Stephen Henderson talks with Congressman Dan Kildee (D) of Michigan’s 5th congressional district about the Iran nuclear deal. Kildee has advocated for years for the release of hostages. Former Marine Amir Hekmati, one of Kildee’s constituents, has been in Iranian jail for more than three years on espionage charges. They talk about what the deal means for hostages, as well as international relations and politics. 

  • Hostages not in nuclear deal: The deal, which the UN security council approved yesterday, does not include anything about Iran’s American hostages. When asked about hostages, President Obama said “Nobody’s content and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out”.  Kildee says that although the deal does not include anything about the hostages, it has given US diplomats their first chance to interact face to face with Iranian government officials. He says Kerry has told him that Hekmati and the other hostages have come up in conversations between diplomats and Iranian officials. 
  • Hekmati’s story: Kildee says that Hekmati went missing when he travelled to Iran for the first time to visit family. When he was located, he had been tried and convicted for cooperating with a hostile government. He was originally given a death sentence, which has now been reduced to ten years. 
  • No conditions: Kildee says Hekmati has does not want his freedom to be exchanged for conditions that could make the world a less safe place.  He says they would prefer and are pursuing release without conditions. He believes that conditionless release would increase Iran’s legitimacy in the eyes of the world. 
  • Options open:  Stephen asks about critics of the deal who say it is just “kicking the can down the road” and won’t stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Kildee argues that 10, 15, or 25 years where Iran does not have the bomb creates a safer world, and that harsher options are still open if Iran disobeys the deal. He says that we must weigh diplomacy against other options, which are imperfect and can have high human cost. 
  • Perception of Iran: Kildee says there is a political spectrum in Iran, and there are moderates who want to cooperate and negotiate with the US. He says we often only see the “Tea Party of Iran”, and says most Americans would not like it if Donald Trump was the international representation and perception of the US culture and policy.
  • US-Israel relationship: A caller asks about Israel’s position on the deal, given that Israel is not a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Kildee agrees that Israel’s position is a stressor in the region, but says the country faces a big threat and its positions must be considered in context. He says that US politicians should be able to have a mature conversation with questions and room for some disagreement without being branded anti-Israel. 

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.  

Image credit: United States Marine Corps

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