Will Americans Held In Iran Be Affected By Trump Dropping The Nuclear Deal?

May 11, 2018
Originally published on May 11, 2018 6:39 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Three American citizens returned home this week after they were released from detention by the North Korean regime. President Trump characterized it as a good faith gesture ahead of his summit with North Korea's leader next month. But this week did not bring resolution for other Americans detained abroad. The president's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal has raised more questions about the fate of Americans currently held in Iran. Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian was detained in Iran's notorious Evin Prison for 544 days. He was released in January of 2016.

JASON REZAIAN: It seems less likely than ever that there could be a resolution. Unless there are other channels open between the two countries, I don't see how that could happen. And from everybody I'm talking to, it doesn't sound like there's such a channel open at this moment. And I can't imagine that one would open any time soon, given the decision on Tuesday to pull out of the nuclear deal.

MARTIN: So even though President Trump has made it well-known that he prefers bilateral agreements - he prefers to negotiate one-on-one with individual countries. He doesn't go in for big, multilateral agreements...

REZAIAN: Right.

MARTIN: ...Like the Iran deal. So you don't buy that the Trump administration could perhaps, one-on-one with the Iranian regime, negotiate a release for these detainees?

REZAIAN: When we pull out of a deal that, by all indications - that deal - that particular deal, for better or worse, Iran was living up to their responsibilities under it - it seems unrealistic to think that on the heels of us pulling out of that deal - that Iran would agree to engage in a direct, one-on-one set of negotiations, whether it's for the nuclear deal, whether it's for prisoners are released, whether it's for curtailing their activities in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan.

MARTIN: You don't think new American sanctions are enough to do it?

REZAIAN: Well, I mean, it might get to the point where American sanctions had that effect that they felt - you know, the regime felt that they had to negotiate. But that's going to be anytime soon. I mean, I lived in Iran during the most extreme sanctions. And anybody who is saying that they support a sanctions regime to bring another country to its knees, to cut off an economy from the rest of the world is really just ignoring the plight of the people of that country. So you can't have it both ways. You know, sanctions are a very blunt and clumsy instrument of warfare.

MARTIN: I know you don't want to ruminate on your own time in Evin Prison in Iran, but I will ask you - when you presumably watched the video or saw the photos of the Americans who were detained in North Korea coming off the plane, what went through your mind?

REZAIAN: Well, I was really happy to see that they are seemingly in good physical health. I also know that there's a lot of euphoria and elation that goes along with that moment. I hope that they're given, you know, the privacy to to readjust with their families, you know, outside of the public view. And they've got a long road ahead of them. And I know what that feels like, and I wish them only the best.

MARTIN: Jason Rezaian, global opinions writer for The Washington Post, thanks so much for talking with us.

REZAIAN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANENON'S "VERSO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.