President Obama praised the release of Americans held prisoner in Iran on Sunday, and the lifting of billions of dollars in international sanctions on the Islamic Republic as part of a landmark nuclear accord.
Citing both developments as victories of “smart” diplomacy, Obama hailed the U.S. government for working with Iran to resolve the issues.
“This is a good day because once again we’re seeing what is possible with strong American diplomacy,” Obama said. “America can do — and has done — big things when we work together.”
The four U.S. citizens were exchanged for seven Iranians imprisoned or charged in the United States. Among the Americans freed were Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho, Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Michigan and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. A fifth prisoner, American student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately on Saturday, a U.S. official said.
A Swiss plane carrying Rezaian, Abedini and Hekmati left Tehran on Sunday, Reuters reported. “We can confirm that our detained U.S. citizens have been released and that those who wished to depart Iran have left,” a senior Obama administration official told Reuters.
Rezaian, 39, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, was arrested in July 2014. Iran convicted him of espionage last year.
“Several Americans unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home,” Obama said Sunday. “I gave these families my word.”
In his address, the President also spoke about the nuclear accord with Iran.
“Yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Most of important of all, we achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.”
He went on to insist that “Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb.”