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Eye On Boise

Obama explains why Abedini wasn’t a bargaining chip in Iran nuke deal

At President Obama’s press conference today, he was pressed by a reporter, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, about why the nuclear deal with Iran didn’t secure the release of four Americans in Iran, three being held in jail, including Idaho Pastor Saeed Abedini, and one missing. Obama said making release of the Americans a condition of the deal would have made it harder for the U.S. to walk away from an unsatisfactory deal, and would have sent a message to Iran in the negotiations that they could gain additional concessions by continuing to hold the Americans.

Asked Garrett, "Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relationship to these four Americans?"

The president paused. "I've got to give you credit, Major, for how you crafted those questions,” he told the reporter. “The notion that I am 'content' as I 'celebrate' with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails?" He paused again. “Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody’s content. And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.”

“Now if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly Iran realizes, ‘You know what? Maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.’ (It) makes it much more difficult for us to walk away, if Iran somehow thinks that a nuclear deal is dependent in some fashion … And by the way, if we had walked away from a nuclear deal, we’d still be pushing them just as hard to get these folks out. That’s why those issues are not connected. But we are working every single day to get them out, and won’t stop until they’re out and rejoined with their families.”

Business Insider Politics has posted the video clip online, with the reporter’s question and the president’s answer; you can watch it here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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