“Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi, and two citizens who wish to remain private will soon be reunited with their loved ones — after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering,” Biden said in a prepared statement. “I am grateful to our partners at home and abroad for their tireless efforts to help us achieve this outcome, including the Governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea.”
But the president also noted tensions with Iran and instructed citizens with passports not to travel there.
“I call on the Iranian regime to give a full account of what happened to Bob Levinson,” Biden said. “The Levinson family deserves answers. Today, we are sanctioning former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence under the Levinson Act for their involvement in wrongful detentions. And we will continue to impose costs on Iran for their provocative actions in the region.”
Biden reiterated a long-standing warning from the State Department that traveling to Iran risks a kidnapping and “arbitrary arrest” and detention. He said a similar deal can not be expected in the future.
“All Americans should heed [the State Department’s warning] and have no expectation that their release can be secured if they do not,” he said.
Critics charge that the deal amounts to a ransom payment that could encourage future hostage-taking by Iran and other hostile governments. Other concerns center on how Iran’s leaders will spend the money.
The White House disputes those claims by saying countries such as Iran and Russia will attempt to detain Americans regardless and that the money comes with strict oversight.
Biden’s statement noted that citizens have been brought home from Afghanistan, Burma, Haiti, Russia, Rwanda, Venezuela, and West Africa under his administration.
“Still, too many remain unjustly held in Russia, Venezuela, Syria, and elsewhere around the world,” he said. “We remain unflinching in our efforts to keep faith with them and their families — and we will not stop working until we bring home every American held hostage or wrongfully detained.”