Two anti-Iran Republican senators are attempting to tie the release of a jailed Washington Post reporter to the ongoing talks with Iran over its nuclear energy program.
Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk said on Monday that US President Barack Obama should demand the release of Jason Rezaian, a 38-year-old Iranian-American, who along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were arrested in July. In October, Salehi was released on bail.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Rezaian is facing four charges including espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and spreading “propaganda”.
Rubio and Kirk said in a statement that “the Obama administration should demand Mr. Rezaian’s immediate release along with all other Americans wrongfully imprisoned in Iran prior to concluding a nuclear deal” with Iran.
The two Republicans, who have emerged as strong supporters of Israel and have backed harsh sanctions against Iran, denounced the charges against Rezaian as baseless.
“It appears that Mr. Rezaian is being persecuted because of his profession as a reporter and his American citizenship,” they said. “We urge the Iranian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Rezaian.”
Iran and P5+1 group of countries – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – reached a mutual understanding on Tehran’s nuclear program on April 2 in Switzerland. The two sides are expected to start drafting a final deal which they seek to sign by the end of June.
If a final deal is reached, it would lift all international sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic in exchange for certain steps Tehran will take with regard to its nuclear program.
The United States should not lift sanctions against Iran as part of an emerging nuclear agreement, Kirk said Saturday.
“Lately, Iran has tried to backtrack on the promises they made to President Obama,” the Republican of Illinois said, referring to an Iranian demand that all sanctions must immediately be lifted upon reaching a final nuclear accord.
Kirk claimed that the sanctions legislation he co-sponsored four years ago forced Iran back to the negotiating table. “This was probably the entire reason why the Iranians even showed up at the negotiations.”
Last week, Rubio, the first-term senator from Florida and a candidate for the 2016 presidential elections, called on Washington to bomb Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
“We may have to decide at some point what is worse: a military strike against Iran or a nuclear-armed Iran,” the 43-year-old said on Friday.
“I am not cheerleading for war. I don’t want there to be the need to use military force, but a nuclear Iran is an unacceptable risk for the region and the world,” said the Cuban American politician, known as an ultimate opportunist within the Republican Party.
By Press TV