President Barack Obama is crediting his ‘smart’ diplomacy for recent breakthroughs in the U.S. relationship with Iran.
Obama says a ‘smart, patient and disciplined approached to the world’ has seen results.
He spoke from the White House on Sunday, one day after the United Nations certified that Iran had curbed its nuclear program as promised.
‘This is a good day,’ Obama said in a statement from the White House. ‘When Americans are freed and returned to their families, that’s something we can all celebrate.’
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President Obama is crediting his ‘smart’ diplomacy for recent breakthroughs in the U.S. relationship with Iran
The president spoke at the close of an extraordinary weekend of diplomacy that saw the back-to-back release of the five Americans and the lifting of billions in international sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear accord.
And America finally reached a deal to settle a longstanding claim at the Hague, releasing to Tehran $400 million in funds frozen since 1981 plus $1.3 billion in interest.
In a possible dig at his Republican critics, Obama told reporters the financial settlement is a success as it is ‘much less’ than the ‘billions’ Iran sought.
His words come amid a storm of criticism from Republicans at the end of a busy deal-making weekend with the Middle Eastern country.
Aspiring presidential candidate Donald Trump slammed the financial settlement and prisoner swap.
He tweeted: ‘In Iran deal we get 4 prisoners. They get $150 billion, 7 most wanted and many off watch list. This will create great incentive for others!’
Meanwhile Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that America had essentially paid a ransom for the five U.S. citizens released this weekend by handing over seven Iranian detainees in exchange.
And Ted Cruz applauded the release of American prisoners but said the deal ‘serves as a piece of propaganda for Iran and the Obama administration’.
He added: ‘We’ve got to shake our heads at how this happened… there is a false moral equivalence in a deal like this.’
Obama did not take any questions in his press conference but dismissed the condemnations by saying it has been ‘a good day’ in America’s history with Iran.
In a possible dig at his Republican critics, Obama told reporters the financial settlement is a success as it is ‘much less’ than the ‘billions’ Iran sought
The funds finally settled in America’s financial dispute with Iran were part of a trust fund once used by Iran to purchase military equipment from the United States but which was tied up for decades in litigation at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.
The settlement announcement was made after Tehran released five American detainees in a prisoner swap as a nuclear deal was implemented.
Underscoring the strain that continues to exist between the U.S. and Iran, the Obama administration also announced new penalties Sunday on 11 individuals and entities involved in Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
‘We will continue to enforce these sanctions vigorously,’ Obama said. ‘We are going to remain vigilant about it.’
For Obama, the diplomatic breakthroughs are a validation of his early promises to deal directly with nations such as Iran. The U.S. and Iran broke off diplomatic relations after the 1979 hostage-taking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to journalists about his negotiations with Iran upon his arrival from Vienna at Joint Base Andrews in Washington on Sunday
‘America can do — and has done — big things when we work together,’ Obama said. ‘We can lead this world and make it safer and more secure.’
The nuclear talks have brought a sense of normalcy to relations with the U.S. and Iran, with top officials from each country in somewhat regular communication. But Obama emphasized that the U.S. continues to have deep concerns about Iran’s destabilizing actions in the Middle East and its threats to Israel.
Obama spoke shortly after the Americans began their journey home. A charter plane left Tehran for Switzerland with the Americans — all four who had been detained, according to Iran state television, or only three, the U.S. said — as part of a prisoner swap.
Within hours of their release, the U.S. imposed sanctions against those involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program as a result of Tehran’s firing of a medium-range ballistic missile.
U.N. experts said in a report in December that the missile test in October violated sanctions banning Iran from launches capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
A U.S. Treasury official said Iran’s ballistic missile program poses ‘a significant threat to regional and global security.’
FOUR OF THE FIVE FREED AMERICANS HAVE NOW LEFT IRAN
Three Iranian-American citizens freed by Iran in a prisoner swap with the United States have left Tehran and are flying to Bern in Switzerland, reports from both capitals said Sunday.
A fourth Iranian-American released as part of the deal, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, was not on board the plane that flew the others out, US officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times.
A fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, was released in a separate process, a US official has said.
Iranian state television said earlier that Khosravi-Roodsari was one of four released prisoners who flew out of the country on a ‘special Swiss plane.’
The other three were Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent; Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor; and former US Marine Amir Hekmati.
Three of the five US citizens released from Iran boarded a plane to Geneva (airport pictured) on Sunday
Khosrow Afghahi (R) embraces a friend at Federal Detention Center Houston in Houston, Texas, on Sunday
American journalist Jason Rezaian is among four U.S. citizens released by Iran as part of a prisoner swap, according to Iranian media
Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati (left) and pastor Saeed Abedini (right) are also believed to be among those released today
A fifth American, student Matthew Trevithick (right), was also freed, but this was unrelated to the prisoner swap
‘We can confirm that our detained US citizens have been released and that those who wished to depart Iran have left,’ a senior US official said.
The US official did not say who was aboard the plane, but The Washington Post said that those leaving included Rezaian, who has been held for nearly 18 months.
The Post reported that the flight out of Iran was delayed because Rezaian’s mother Mary and wife Yeganeh, who also were on the airplane, initially did not appear on the flight manifest.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters traveling with him from Vienna to Washington that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif resolved the problem.
‘Zarif had no question about it,’ Kerry was quoted as saying. ‘It was part of the agreement, it was clearly stated. The problem was, one of the guys on the ground, at a military base, didn’t have it on the manifest.’
Iran announced their release on Saturday, just hours before Tehran’s historic nuclear deal with world powers was implemented, in exchange for Washington pardoning seven Iranians accused of sanctions-busting or violating trade embargoes.
State television said the seven Iranians — Nader Modanlou, Baharam Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi, Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh, and Ali Saboonchi — ‘will be freed today.’
Amir Hekmati, a former US Marine who faced a death sentence as an alleged spy, also was released, his family said, adding that they were officially told he was on a plane leaving Iran.
‘It is hard to put into words what our family feels right now. But we remain in hopeful anticipation until Amir is in our arms.’