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LIVE UPDATES: Sanctions lifted on Iran; Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Americans freed in swap

January 16, 2016

Iran freed four imprisoned U.S. citizens, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, according to U.S. officials. Rezaian was arrested in July 2014. In exchange, the U.S. offered clemency to seven Iranians who had been convicted or are pending trial in the United States.

On the same day, implementation of the nuclear deal was finalized. Read full story here.

  • Swati Sharma
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A Swiss plane that would carry Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and the other three Americans who were freed in an exchange deal with the U.S. has not yet left Tehran due to a “number of logistical steps,” according to a senior administration official.

“We expect [the arrangements] to be completed as soon as possible,” the official said.

The fifth U.S. citizen, Matthew Trevithick, whose case was not tied to the exchange, has already left Iran.

— Read the full story here.

  • Kevin Uhrmacher
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In July, Iran agreed to a series of short-term and long-term conditions to curb its nuclear program. The deal should extend Iran’s “breakout time” — the time it would need to enrich enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb — from an estimated couple of months to a year or more, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press conference.

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  • Sarah Larimer
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Reporters and editors have been reacting on Twitter to the news that Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian was included in a prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran, ending his months-long imprisonment.

Here’s a look at what some have tweeted today:

You can read more here.

  • Sarah Larimer
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The White House on Saturday sent out a copy of the text of President Obama’s executive order on Iran. We’ve uploaded it for you, and you can read the text below:

Exec Order

  • Swati Sharma
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As international sanctions on Iran were lifted in exchange for “the verified disabling of much of [Iran’s] nuclear infrastructure,” Secretary of State John Kerry declared the beginning of a “safer world.”

He thanked the Iranians for their compliance and also mentioned President Obama in his remarks on “Implementation Day,” the moment when the IAEA verified that Iran had “carried out all measures required” to implement the deal.

  • Niraj Chokshi
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A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that the administration paid Iran a “ransom” for the freedom of the Americans released in Saturday’s prisoner exchange.

“We’re glad that Iran has reportedly finally released four American citizens who were unjustly detained. They should never have been held in the first place,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said on Saturday afternoon. “We’re awaiting details from the administration on the ransom paid for their freedom.”

  • Sarah Larimer
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Television personality Montel Williams, a Navy veteran, had a message Saturday to those who have been critical of the prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Iran, a group that has included some Republican presidential candidates: “Sit the hell down and shut up.”

Over on Checkpoint, Dan Lamothe has the details, writing:

Williams has advocated regularly for another one of the American prisoners released, Amir Hekmati, 32, a Marine Corps veteran who was taken prisoner in Iran while visiting the country in 2011. Iranian officials accused him of being a spy, but his family has maintained that he was there visiting his grandmother.

You can read more here.

  • Kevin Uhrmacher
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Many of the requirements, “red lines” and other strongly worded provisions leaders insisted on in the Iran negotiations do not appear in the final agreement. See what Iranian and American leaders said in the full graphic, first published in July, here.

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  • Ariana Eunjung Cha
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While on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa on Saturday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed sharp criticism about the Obama administration’s prisoner swap deal.

In an interview with Iowa’s WHO TV Saturday morning, the GOP presidential hopeful said he’s “very happy” for the families of the Americans who were released but that the exchange raises fears that “this president is releasing more terrorists from Guantanamo to go back and re-enter the war on terror.”

“We shouldn’t have to swap prisoners,” he said. “These [Americans] were taken illegally in violation of international law and they should have been released without condition, but you know, the Iranians have treated this president with disrespect for years and he continues to take it. I would not take it as president.”

Washington Post reporter Ed O’Keefe, who is traveling with Christie, said the governor reiterated his viewpoint that the exchange is a bad deal at a town hall in Ames, Iowa later in the day. Christie said that the country should not have to give anything up to get its illegally detained citizens back. “If we had a President who was respected around the world, we wouldn’t have these folks taken in the first place,” he said.

“We have to be grateful that those folks are being sent home,” he said, “but we also have to scrutinize what this president gave away in the process.”

Below are his full remarks in Ames:

First I think, we’re all grateful, at least the reports that we hear this morning, that the Iranians have released our Americans and we have to thank god for that and pray for their safe return and pray for the strength of their families who have put up with them being separated from our country and from their families for a long time. The concern I have, and we don’t know yet, is that the president made a trade. Now, when this president makes trades this is a big problem. This is not a guy I would let negotiate buying a car for me let alone anything else. I mean he makes bad deals and he seems to become an expert at making bad deal with the Iranians. The fact is that we shouldn’t have to trade anything to get our citizens back home. They were taken illegally by a rogue regime of Mullahs over in Iran and this is the problem with this president, he gets no respect around the world. No respect. If we had a president who was respected around the world, we wouldn’t have these folks taken in the first place. Remember the last time we had Iranian hostages again a president that the world did not respect in Jimmy Carter and as soon as Ronald Reagan took the oath of office those Iranians returned our citizens immediately because they knew if they didn’t they would have to face the strength of character and the wrath of Ronald Reagan. We need a president like that in the White House again, who people say understands what the problems are in this country and will fight hard for our citizens. So we have to be grateful that those folks are being sent home but we also have to scrutinize what this president gave away in the process. He’s been trading terrorists from Guantanamo Bay back into the terrorism business. This is an awful thing and this president doesn’t understand.

  • Monica Akhtar
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  • Jason Aldag
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  • Swati Sharma
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  • Niraj Chokshi
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Iran announced on Saturday that it plans to buy 114 civil aircraft from European manufacturer Airbus, according to a report by the Tasnim news agency.

Airbus said it would not engage in commercial talks with Iran until sanctions were lifted, Reuters reported, though its return to the Iranian market had been expected for some time.

Earlier this week, the Financial Times quoted the head of Airbus’s passenger jet unit as saying the company had reached out to Iran.

“We have made some contacts, yes,” Fabrice Brégier said. “This is potentially a huge market for Airbus and our competitors.”

“We are dependent on the resolution of the international negotiations,” Brégier said then.

  • Swati Sharma
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Yeganeh Salehi, the wife of Jason Rezaian, was arrested along with her husband on July 22, 2014. Although she was released on bail, she was ordered not to leave Iran.

Until Saturday.

According to U.S. officials, Salehi is allowed to leave Iran.

And to answer the question raised by Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post and CEO of Amazon:

We still don’t know.

  • Sarah Larimer
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Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who represents the Rezaian family in Congress, said in an interview that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other Republicans “would have said the same things” about the prisoner exchange no matter what the circumstances were.

Rubio has criticized the Obama administration for arranging a prisoner swap.

“There are some critics of the administration that just can’t acknowledge anything good that comes from this administration,” he said. “I think it’s shameful the way [Rubio] and others continuously pound their chest and talk down any accomplishment of this administration. ”

You can read more about Rubio’s comments here.

— Karen DeYoung

  • Ariana Eunjung Cha
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The wife of Saeed Abedini, 35, a Christian pastor from Boise, Idaho who was arrested in September 2012 in Iran, thanked all those who had been praying for his release.

“This has been an answer to prayer,” Naghmeh Abedini said in a statement. “We look forward to Saeed’s return and want to thank the millions of people who have stood with us in prayer during this most difficult time.”

Saeed Abedini was found guilty of endangering national security and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The case made Naghmeh Abedini a public figure for religious freedom and drew attention from Christians around the world. She wrote in a first-person piece in The Washington Post that his absence has taken a very emotional toll on her and their two children, Rebekka and Jacob.

“My kids have had to grow up without a father,” she wrote. “Saeed has missed so many birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.” Shortly after the piece was published, however, she revealed that their marriage had been troubled and included “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.’”

Post reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey spoke with Naghmeh Abedini on Saturday: Wife of pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in Iran for his faith, explains the ‘shock’ of his release

Naghmeh Abedini, holds a necklace with a photograph of her husband, Saeed Abedini, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with four people whose family members are being held in Iran. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • Sarah Larimer
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That’s what Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” posted to Twitter on Saturday. Bourdain met Jason Rezaian and his wife while filming an episode, a clip of which is below:

Here’s what Bourdain wrote for The Post after Rezaian and his wife were arrested in 2014:

In short, two more kind, positive and open-minded ambassadors of understanding could hardly be imagined. They enriched my understanding of a very old, extraordinary and deeply complicated nation. I think this fall, when people watch the episode I filmed there, they will be surprised, whatever their feelings on the politics. It will challenge their assumptions, just as my trip challenged mine. Jason and Yeganeh helped me to look at their country more deeply and with an open heart.

I am, of course, deeply worried for the both of them. They seem to have dropped off the face of the Earth. No communication. No reasons given. Just gone. These are good people, much loved and admired all over the world. I am, unfortunately, growing used to seeing bad things happening to good people. But this I can’t get used to, or ever understand. This wonderful couple is a danger to no one. They are nobody’s enemy. They are without blame or malice. Why are they in jail?

You can read the full piece here.

  • Niraj Chokshi
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Donald Trump on Saturday criticized the deal with Iran for taking too long.

“This should have been done three, four years ago, when the deal was struck. Before the deal was made—and this is the world’s longest deal—they should have said we want our prisoners back,” Trump said at a New Hampshire campaign rally, recorded by MSNBC.

Trump also criticized the deal for giving Iran too much.

“Doesn’t sound too good. Doesn’t sound too good,” he said. “But we have to see because I just heard about this an hour ago. But—and I’m happy they’re coming back—but I will tell you it’s a disgrace that they’ve been there for so long. It’s a disgrace, remember that. A total disgrace.”

  • Swati Sharma
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In this Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 video frame grab image made from the Iranian broadcaster IRIB TV, U.S. citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, accused by Iran of spying for the CIA, sits in Tehran’s revolutionary court, in Iran. (AP)

Amir Hekmati, a former Marine, was arrested on spying charges on Aug. 29, 2011, while on a visit to see his grandmother.

His family released this statement:

“We thank everyone for your thoughts during this time. There are still many unknowns. At this point, we are hoping and praying for Amir’s long-awaited return.”

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

By Katie Zezima

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) applauded the release of American prisoners on Saturday, while still reserving the right to future criticism of the deal that secured their freedom.

“We have just gotten the news that Pastor Saeed Abedini and three other Americans are apparently coming home from Iran … praise God,” Cruz told reporters in Fort Mill, S.C., on Saturday

“We have yet to get full details but at this point we are simply giving prayers of thanksgiving that they are coming home,” he said. “Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, is someone I’ve been blessed to get to know. She’s a wonderful woman. Their two little kids have been praying and longing for their daddy to come home for a long, long time.”

“We don’t know the details of the deal that is bringing them home and it may well be that there are some very problematic aspects to this deal. But at least this morning I am giving thanks that Pastor Saeed is coming home. It’s far later than it should have been but we will be glad to welcome him home.”

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