MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Speaking to reporters at a tea party convention in here, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee praised Iran's decision to release four Americans held as prisoners, while he criticized the Obama administration's negotiating strategy.

"It's great that these prisoners have been released," Huckabee said. "They should have been released before we ever sat down at the negotiating table. They've been there more than a year too long. Actually, they've been there several years too long. I'm grateful that they're released and free, especially Pastor [Saeed] Abedini and the Washington Post reporter, who was clearly railroaded into some false charge. Why it took this long, I have no idea, but today we should rejoice for their families."

Two days earlier, after the Republican debates in North Charleston, Huckabee had told the Washington Post that a tougher president might have already secured the release of the prisoners."If they had taken sailors, we would have demanded their immediate release," he said. "We would also have demanded the release of the Washington Post reporter, and Pastor Abedini. The fact that they're sitting in a Tehran jail is absolutely embarrassing to the United States of America."

Today, with both the sailor crisis and the prisoner crisis effectively over, Huckabee reiterated that he, like all but one of the Republican candidates for president, was inclined to immediately end the nuclear agreement and restore the sanctions on Iran.

"We should have not only kept them, we should have tightened them," said Huckabee. "This would be like Neville Chamberlain writing a $150 billion check to the Nazis before World War II, and saying, 'Y'all be careful with that money.'"