Amid increasing tough statements from Washington regarding Iran’s behavior, the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution on October 5th to demand the release of American citizens and U.S. permanent residents detained in Iran.
Iran has arrested and imprisoned a number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents since it signed the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Often the charges made against the detainees are vague and general in nature, without the accused having access to due process of law.
In recent days, the Trump administration has signaled that it will decertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. On Thursday, President Donald Trump spoke of the “coming storm”, without further clarification. It is not clear whether his remark was related to Iran or another adversary.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that Congress will work with the administration to increase sanctions pressure on Iran, while the critics of the deal hope the issue of detained Americans will be part of that pressure.
Senator Ted Cruz (R. Texas) who has sponsored the measure said, “The Iranian regime has unjustly detained, interrogated Americans and dual-nationals for the receipt of economic or political concessions”, adding , "The release of these prisoners—both U.S. citizens and permanent residents aliens—must be our utmost priority."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar measure in May and according to Free Beacon, the full Senate is expected to consider the measure “in the coming weeks.”
Another critic of the nuclear deal, Senator Bob Menendez (D. N.J.) was also clear about what is expected of Iran, "If Iran wants to be accepted by the community of nations and be observed in the international order, as it suggests it aspires to do so, it has to stop hostage taking. And stop in a particular way that targets the United States and legal permanent residents and uses them, at the end of the day, as pawns."
The Islamic Republic insists that it abides by the nuclear deal and other issues such as its ballistic missile tests or its actions in the region are not part of the multi-national agreement aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear activities.
The resolution, sponsored by Senators Cruz, Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), and Cory Booker (D., N.J.), demands the release of all U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as foreign nationals held by the Islamic Republic.
America’s Western allies also have citizens detained in Iran and the resolution urges the creation of a multi-national task force to secure their release.
The critics of the Obama administration Iran policy argue that payments made in early 2016, apparently in exchange for the release of four Americans, further encourages the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, IRGC to take more hostages.
The detainees in Iran are kept in utter secrecy, with almost no access to them by family or independent lawyers. Their well-being and health situation is a matter of serious concern for their families.