Iran Wants Prisoner Swaps, Not Talks
Throughout the entire year, Iran has been a thorn in America’s side with all the defiance of policies and broken negotiations. For the past few months, Iran has said they are done talking and want Washington to remove the sanctions. That will never happen until Iran complies, but they are willing to discuss swapping out prisoners among each other. It is not the talks we wish to discuss, but it is a step toward negotiations that are taken into consideration. There is hope, but according to the U.S. Cabinet spokesman, negotiations concerning denuclearization between Washington and Iran are off the table.
Iran released a Chinese-American this past weekend, which was held prisoner for the last three years for alleged espionage charges. Xiyue Wang, a scholar from Princeton, was released for Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani. Soleimani was charged and went through a federal trial in Georgia for violating sanctions and bringing biological materials back to Iran.
The U.S. spokesman, Ali Rabiei, stated, “We are ready to cooperate to return all Iranians unlawfully imprisoned in the U.S. However, there will be no other negotiations with the U.S. beside this issue. Any further negotiations would be possible through the so-called 5+1 framework.” This is the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany. Iran is still saying they will not release any more until sanctions are removed by the U.S.
The negotiations for the prisoners took place in Switzerland and happened indirectly. There are no clear signs this would release the tensions between Iran and the U.S., but as long as the sanctions are in place, there will always be tensions because Iran is stubborn and still is not backing down from their stance. The question is, how much longer can Iran go? Because their economy is crumbling under the effects. The U.S. will not back down either.
Through the crackdown, according to Amnesty International, over 200 people have lost their lives. No death tolls or figures have been confirmed, but all of the deaths are related to the tensions. Other prisoners from America and other countries will be used as pawns in Iran’s attempts to negotiate their desires. U.S. Navy veteran Michael White and environmentalist Morad Tahbaz are both held for espionage charges and face a 10-year sentence.
An 83-year-old Baquer Namazi, along with his son, is also prisoners facing 10-year sentences for collaboration with a hostile power. Namazi will be unable to leave Iran even though he is freed, due to he is on a prison furlough.
Questions remain about a former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared without a trace in Iran back in 2007. It is unknown if he is alive, captured, or dead, but Iran claims they do not have him. Levinson’s family is holding Iran responsible for their loved one disappearing and claim Iran knows something.
NPR’s Peter Kenyon stated everything was confirmed on the release by President Trump, and he explained in detail what happened. Here is his statement, “Well, the first word came from a Mohammad Javad Zarif. That’s the Iranian foreign minister. And he wrote that this Chinese American scholar Xiyue Wang, who’d been arrested in 2016, will be joining his family soon. That’s what Zarif wrote. He also posted about the Iranian scientist Masoud Soleimani. He’d been arrested in Chicago last year. Zarif thanked everyone involved, especially the Swiss government, for acting on behalf of the U.S., as it frequently does in matters involving Iran. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in, announcing Wang’s coming return to the United States. There’d been some speculation for some time that a prisoner exchange might be possible. And that heated up in recent days. And now it appears to have transpired.”
Kenyon feels speculations at this time can not predict anything. When speaking about the Soleimani, Kenyon stated, “Forty-nine-year-old Dr. Masoud Soleimani – he was working in Iran. He left on sabbatical, came to the U.S. and was arrested in Chicago on charges of violating trade sanctions against Iran. He was imprisoned. He was apparently nearing release under a plea agreement when this exchange was just announced. Foreign Minister Zarif posted photos of himself with Soleimani flying back to Iran.”
Kenyon concluded the interview with this thought of hope, “But, you know, this exchange does show that Iran and the Trump administration can agree on something. And in this case, I’d say the families of Xiyue Wang and Masoud Soleimani are the primary beneficiaries.” This is so true!