- As Delivered –

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today spoke in the House of Representatives in support of H.Res. 233, calling on the Iranian regime to release three detained Americans and provide information on any American citizen detained in Iran:

“Thank you Mr. Speaker, I rise to support H.Res. 233 calling for the release of Americans held or missing in Iran, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“First of all, I want to associate my feelings with the remarks of our Chairman, Congressman Royce. I think he hit the nail right on the head several times with his statement and I agree with every word he uttered. You know, it is just ludicrous that at a time we are completing, we are weeks away, from ostensibly completing an agreement with Iran, that our hostages—I can’t think of any other word for them—are being treated so shabbily by the Iranian regime. As far as I am concerned it casts a pale on any potential agreement that we have with Iran on June 30th. If this is the way they are treating Americans, how can we rely on them or count on them to fulfill their obligations under any agreement we sign with them?

“It’s just ludicrous that here we are at the eleventh hour, you would think the Iranian regime would want to start acting favorably so that we in Congress might favorably look upon any deal that could be reached. Instead, they are continuing their old ways and doing just the opposite. It just doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t help us to trust them. It doesn’t help us to believe them. And it only helps to furthers all the things we have seen and heard and questioned about this rogue regime in Tehran.

“Now, I want to thank Representative Kildee for authoring this resolution. He has been a champion for these four Americans and their families. As I said at our hearing, he has been unrelenting in terms of fighting for his constituent and the others who are held in Iranian prisons. Along with Representative Deutch, who is Ranking Member of the Middle East Subcommittee, who also has a constituent who is a hostage, also been very vociferous. Representative Huffman, always talking to us about these issues, always looking to free these Americans in prison. And Representative Labrador. Representative Kildee has ensured that these Americans are not forgotten here in the Congress.

“As we mentioned, two weeks ago, our committee heard from the Hekmati, Rezaian, Levinson, and Abedini families. Their stories were heartbreaking, their pleas heartfelt. As they made clear in their testimony, their cause is our cause. It’s America’s cause.

“We’re a few weeks away, as I said before, from an important deadline in the Iranian nuclear talks. It is ridiculous that our citizens languish in Iranian jails while we negotiate. At the same time, as the families of the Americans point out, these negotiations have given us the only opportunity to directly raise the cases of the four Americans with the Iranian government. And we are assured by the administration that at every instance they raise these cases with the Iranian government. I’m happy they raise the cases. I’m grateful that they raise these cases. But of course, if we don’t get these people home, it’s all for naught. And, I cannot imagine having an agreement with Iran that doesn’t take into account these people, and doesn’t release these people. It would just be a dereliction of our duties and responsibility to have an agreement with Iran while not bargaining or getting the freedom of these people. We don’t want to use them as a bargaining chip but on the other hand, we don’t want these people to remain in jail after there is some kind of an agreement with Iran.

“So I wish we knew more about the conditions of these four Americans. But in these cases, Iran isn’t playing by the rules, once again. Typically, if an American were detained in Iran, Switzerland, the U.S. “protecting power” in Iran, would have access to them for consular services. It’s not the case here.

“In the cases of the three Iranian-Americans, Iran doesn’t even acknowledge their dual citizenship—only their Iranian citizenship. This position runs roughshod over long-established international law. Without consular access, we cannot judge the health and welfare of our own American citizens. This is unacceptable. The United States respects this access for Iranian citizens held here. Reciprocal privileges are the least they could provide.

“Sadly, Mr. Deutch’s constituent, Robert Levinson’s whereabouts are unknown. I simply don’t believe that the Iranians have been forthcoming at all about his status. If he is indeed still a hostage, he is now the longest-held hostage in American history. We shouldn’t stand for this. We shouldn’t sit still while this continues.

“I will weigh the nuclear deal carefully when it comes to us, but Iran’s leaders could send the American people a gesture of goodwill by providing more information about Robert Levinson, and by freeing Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian. By the way, Mr. Rezaian is the bureau chief, the Tehran bureau chief, of the Washington Post. Unbelievable that he would be arrested for espionage. Ludicrous. Ridiculous.

“So this is a concern all of us share. It doesn’t matter where you come from in this country or what your political affiliation is. These are Americans, and we all want to see these four Americans come home safely to their families.

“So I applaud this resolution, urge my colleagues to support it, and I reserve the balance of my time.”


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