Four Imprisoned Americans in Iran

In a stunning display of moral cowardice, President Obama struck a nuclear deal with Iran that leaves four U.S. citizens, including American Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran.

They’ve been abandoned.  And for what?

The “historic” deal with Iran grants it billions of dollars in sanctions relief and new trade, a pathway to a nuclear weapon, and the privilege of being one of the only nuclear powers in the Middle East.  What does it give up? Nothing.  It merely agrees to do, for a time, what it is already not allowed to do.

In exchange for that epic disaster, President Obama is leaving behind four Americans.  It’s diplomatic malpractice.

Pastor Saeed, whose family we at the ACLJ represent, has been wrongfully imprisoned for nearly three years because he is a Christian.  He has endured beatings, torment, malnourishment, psychological abuse, and intense pain (injuries sustained from prison beatings).

Just one single hour of his more than 1,000 days in prison looks like this:

2:00 PM          As prisoners, we are responsible for maintaining the ward and are each assigned chores and tasks.  But even with these tasks the sheer number of us and lack of overall care for the facilities has created inhumane and unsanitary conditions.  Our bathroom, which I am tasked with cleaning today, is no more than a hole in the ground.  Every attempt to clean the bathroom is futile as the ceiling above leaks feces and urine from the bathroom directly above.  As I clean I try to maintain perspective by humming worship songs.  In this filth, I am reminded of the depth of my own filth that Jesus took for me by dying on the cross.  

That’s what he endures each and every day.  Yet, President Obama abandoned him.

Even worse, President Obama met with Pastor Saeed’s family earlier this year, looked his wife and young children in the eyes and said that he would make Pastor Saeed’s release a “top priority.”

He broke that promises this week.  A bad deal with Iran and his legacy were more important than the lives of four Americans.

It’s a basic principle of the America spirit; in fact President Obama himself has said he would “leave no one behind.”

Pastor Saeed was left behind. Amir Hekmati (a former Marine) was left behind.  Jason Rezaian (a journalist whose trial is ongoing in Iran) was left behind.  Robert Levinson (a former FBI agent who is believed imprisoned) was left behind.

Today, CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett “clearly struck a nerve” by even daring to ask the President about these four U.S. citizens who were left behind.  President Obama lashed out in response, retorting, “Major, that’s nonsense and you should know better.”

Nonsense?  No Mr. President.  Lives are at stake, and it is our right as Americans to demand answers from our leaders when our fellow citizens are left to rot in Iranian prisons.

It takes moral clarity to, before we even sit down at the table with the Islamic Republic of Iran, demand that our own citizens are freed.  Instead we see the results of moral cowardice.

Now it’s up to Congress.  Congress can defeat this deal.  Both the House and Senate have passed unanimous resolutions demanding Iran release the wrongfully imprisoned Americans.  Now is their opportunity to send a powerful message to Iran.  Reject the deal and demand the return of our citizens back home to America.

Our petition to Congress, that says just that, has already gained over 130,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.  Add your name today.

Matthew Clark is Senior Counsel for Digital Advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and four children in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.