Smith Statement on Iran’s Release of Innocent American Prisoners
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) welcomed today's release of American hostages jailed illegally by Iran—including Pastor Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari—calling it "gratifying for the families who had waited far too long for this day.” Smith asserted, however, that the victims should have been released years ago, before the Administration sat down with the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime. Instead, by linking their release to $140 billion sanctions relief and including Iranian prisoners in an apparent swap, the Administration has essentially paid ransom that enables Iran to expand its terrorism and ballistic-missile program.
“It is good to see the release of American hostages jailed illegally in Iran for far too long,” said Smith, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights who has long called for the prisoners’ release at congressional hearings including in December 2013, February 2015 and June 2015 with human rights advocates and family members of the victims. “I'm happy for them and their families and note that Pastor Abedini's release coincides with Religious Freedom Day. But I don't understand why the Administration is swapping prisoners when Iran will get $140 billion dollars today in a flawed nuclear deal. The release of funds to the Iranian government—required by President Obama’s pact with Iran—will only empower it to expand its terrorist reach.”
“If emerging reports are true, this prisoner swap may only serve to further undermine trust that the Administration will take a hardline with Iran if it violates agreements,” said Smith. “Not all Americans were freed in this swap. Robert Levinson, missing since 2007, was not included in this deal for some unknown reason. In addition, the Administration reportedly delayed imposing any new sanctions for the test-firing of its ballistic missiles because the Iranians threatened to scuttle the prisoner swap. You can’t make a bad deal better by making concessions, it only shows weakness, not strength.”
A Reuters story on the link between the prisoner swap and the Administration’s decision not to pursue additional sanctions can be found here.
Congressman Smith’s release on the occasion of Religious Freedom Day can be found here.