Why isn’t Obama demanding Iran release WaPo reporter Jason Rezaian?

obama-kerryIn addition to everything else that’s wrong with the nuclear deal Barack Obama and John Kerry are pursuing with Iran (chiefly, that it clears the way for Iran to have nuclear weapons), the administration is rushing headlong into finalizing the deal without demanding the release of Jason Rezaian as a condition.

Who is Jason Rezaian? He is a reporter for the Washington Post, and holds dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship as an Iranian-American. The Iranian regime has arrested Rezaian on ridiculous trumped up charges of spying, and his show trial began this week. The State Department has condemned Rezaian’s arrest, which is well and good, but they could exercise real leverage if they were so inclined by refusing to go any further in these nuclear talks until Rezaian is released unconditionally. Instead, they’re sitting idly by while this happens:

The trial is being held in Branch 15 of the Tehran revolutionary court, which usually presides over political cases or those related to national security. The first session ended after about three hours, according to MizanOnline, a news agency linked to the judiciary. It gave no further details and said the date of the next session would be announced later.

Rezaian, an Iranian-American, has been held since July last year in a politically sensitive case that has unfolded while Iran and world powers conduct nuclear talks. His wife, who worked for The National, an English-language newspaper based in Abu Dhabi, was arrested along with him but released on bail after spending two and a half months in custody.

Rezaian, 39, is accused of “espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic republic,” according to his lawyer Leila Ahsan. The United States and the Washington Post have branded the charges absurd and demanded his release. Tehran does not recognise dual nationality, and says the case is a purely Iranian matter.

State media gave no details of Tuesday’s hearing and no indication of how long the trial might last. But it will overlap with the final stretch of negotiations between Iran and the major powers aimed at reaching a comprehensive agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme by a June 30 deadline. Rezaian’s case has been played out in the Iranian media, where he has been accused of spying and passing information about Iran to US government officials.

Some may argue that Rezaian put himself in jeopardy by maintaining his Iranian citizen, thus putting himself under the authority of Iran’s laws. I say that the U.S. must regard that as irrelevant for the purpose of this situtation. If U.S. citizenship means anything, then it must mean it all the time. The U.S. cannot allow the human rights of its citizens to be violated by hostile regimes overseas, especially when we have leverage do something about it. Rezaian is not a 50 percent American citizen and a 50 percent Iranian citizen. Rather, his U.S. citizenship is 100 percent valid and he is entitled to his government’s protection in this situation.

And frankly, if the U.S. is willing to make a nuclear deal with people that treat their own citizens in this way – let alone ours – our leaders are utterly insane.

The Iran nuclear deal should be stopped because it’s a terrible deal. But there shouldn’t even be any further talks on the matter until Jason Rezaian is free. If there are, then Barack Obama and John Kerry have further shamed their offices beyond what they’d already done – and that’s saying something.


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