It says a lot about President Donald Trump that one of his administration’s highest priorities has been getting Americans being held overseas home.
Don’t know if anyone has kept any records on such things, but there’s no doubt that Trump has been a champion in standing up for and freeing Americans.
He did it again today with the release of Xiyue Wang, a Princeton doctoral student who has been held in Iran since 2016 on what could be called fuzzy charges at best. He was there on a dissertation research trip when he was arrested and charged as a spy.
Great News! Another American prisoner is freed and coming home!!
“The Trump administration has made a priority of bringing prisoners home—and of pressuring Iran. With Xiyue Wang’s release, it can claim victory on two fronts.” https://t.co/7XlLkmukI6
— Grace Vasquez (@itsYourGrace) December 7, 2019
— ABC News Radio (@ABCNewsRadio) December 7, 2019
From The Atlantic:
For Donald Trump, Wang’s release is a twofold victory: This administration has made a priority of getting U.S. hostages freed from overseas jails, and Wang is the first American citizen freed from Iran since the beginning of the Trump administration. (Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen and U.S. permanent resident, was freed this summer.) The White House is also likely to present Wang’s release as proof that its maximum-pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic is working.
“The highest priority of the United States is the safety and well-being of its citizens,” Trump said in a statement. “Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas.”
Trump last year claimed that he’d gotten 17 people out of imprisonment around the world. “We’re very proud of that record. Very proud,” he said then. “And we have others coming.”
Trump was right.
While he’s gotten most of the folks out without trades, in this case, the U.S. is freeing Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian stem-cell scientist who was being held for evading sanctions, in exchange for Wang.
Wang’s release still leaves at least five other Americans detained or unaccounted for in Iran, including the businessman Siamak Namazi and his elderly father, Baquer. Siamak Namazi’s brother Babak said in a statement today that he was “absolutely thrilled” for Wang and his family. “At the same time,” he wrote, “I am beyond devastated that a second president has left my ailing father Baquer Namazi and brother Siamak Namazi behind as American hostages in Iran in a second swap deal.” Siamak Namazi, who was detained in October 2015, was not part of the prisoner exchange the Obama administration implemented in January 2016; news of his father’s arrest came the following month.
Robert Levinson, who disappeared from Iran in 2007 while on an unofficial mission for the CIA, has now been gone for more than a decade, and his whereabouts are a mystery. The Iranian government has denied holding him and the last proof of life appeared in a 2010 video, in which, according to the Associated Press, Pashto music could be heard in the background, suggesting that he might have no longer been in Iran but in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
But the Iranian government may have inadvertently offered a new clue recently. In a filing to the United Nations, it referred to an “ongoing case” against him before Iran’s Revolutionary Court. The Trump administration, meanwhile, raised the potential reward for information leading to his whereabouts to a total of $25 million.
Officials said that the families should look at Wang’s release as a positive sign, that they are still working on getting the other Americans home.
This will give more impetus to the idea that squeezing Iran has benefits. Given they are hard up at home as people are rioting in the streets for freedom and over the economy, the mullahs are on more of a thin reed than they have perhaps ever been in recent time.
Meanwhile Wang’s family is grateful that he is just home again with his wife, Hua Qu, and child, 6-year-old son Shaofan. “Our family is complete again,” Hua Qu said.