I am not for or against a deal per se, I think the execution and enforcement of the agreement will be much more important for the U.S. than whether a nuclear deal exists or not. But, I believe that more time is needed to rethink the demand that Rezaian, and the other journalists’ release be a component to the deal. I cannot in clear conscious reward arbitrary detention as a policy, in the U.S. or abroad.
(The opinions offered in this piece are my own, and may or may not reflect the views of Legal Reader management and staff…yada yada)
Over the past year, Congressional leaders have repeatedly broken a longstanding and sacred tradition by continuing domestic politics beyond the water’s edge in terms of the Iran-nuclear agreement. It is very possible that several attempts to undermine the deal run counter to the 1779 Logan Act, which calls attempts to interfere with the president’s authority to negotiate treaties a felonious act of treason, punishable by up to two years in prison. While it’s extremely unlikely the leadership will police its own in terms of that particular law, and its language leads to a great degree of interpretation and debate, several lawmakers opposed to the deal actually raise a valid point regardless of the tactics involved. Although it appears that President Obama will have enough support in Congress to block any further attempts at derailing the agreement, the Senate is holding one more vote Tuesday evening in a last-ditch effort to rally support against it. Lawmakers are facing a September 17th deadline to block the measure.
Those like me who religiously watch CNN’s Parts Unknown, a travel and culture show with host Anthony Bourdain may recognize Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian as one of Bourdain’s guests on an episode touring Iran’s capital city. At the end of the episode, Bourdain made the cryptic declaration that the Iranian-American Rezaian had been detained without explanation shortly after filming. Rezaian has been held under a veil of secrecy for much of the time in solitary confinement in Iran’s notorious Evin prison since he and his wife were arrested 14 months ago on charges of espionage. Although Rezaian’s wife, also a journalist, was released along with another journalist, Rezaian remains detained with two other journalists and his current whereabouts remain unknown. Two journalists were sentenced to ten years in prison on August 30th after being tried earlier in the month in Iran’s Revolutionary Court, although it is unclear if Rezaian was among those sentenced.
Although much of the Republican opposition to the deal stems from lack of trust that Iran’s leadership will renege, or at the least, try to cheat the terms of the agreement, some have also criticized the president’s lack of effort in securing Rezaian’s and the other journalist’s release. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) both made stern demands that the president reject any deal that does not include the immediate release of Rezaian and the other Americans held in Iran. Still, Democratic Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Coons of Delaware said that no nuclear deal should be tied to non nuclear- related activities, although Coons added, “But we should also not stop advocating for the release of Americans held there.” The Senate also voted on a resolution in May by a 90-0 vote, calling for Rezaian’s release. Although Democrats are poised to hand Obama a victory on the Iran deal, support is not universal. Democratic Representative Jared Huffman is not only skeptical of Iran’s commitment to uphold the agreement, but also told reporters it would be easier for him to give his support to the deal if “if Iran did the right thing and released” Rezaian, who he said was “unjustly imprisoned.” Huffman represents the Bay Area, California district where Rezaian and his family live.
On Tuesday, Ali Rezaian, Jason’s brother, pleaded before the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee in Geneva. The committee monitors country’s adherence to the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Although the committee does not have enforcement power in and of itself, it does provide a forum for international pressure on Iran. Rezaian argued in front of the panel that “To the extent Jason is being held for domestic or international political leverage, such tactics are illegal and inhumane. He and other journalists must not be imprisoned for exercising their rights and doing their jobs.” The plea also comes as Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to travel to New York to appear before the U.N.’s General Assembly meeting.
As a student of foreign policy, I cannot stomach the way Congress interfered with the president’s negotiations, especially with regard to inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak in the midst of the talks last spring. However, I also have to disagree with Senators Kaine and Coons. Given the secrecy of Rezaian’s and the other journalists’ detainment, along with Iran’s history of misleading statements regarding its nuclear facilities, the two issues are directly intertwined. It demonstrates a serious lack of desire to comply with the legal standards of the 21st Century. While the United Nations may not have the enforcement capabilities to ensure Iran’s transparency, the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal offers tangible leverage. I am not for or against a deal per se, I think the execution and enforcement of the agreement will be much more important for the U.S. than whether a nuclear deal exists or not. But, I believe that more time is needed to rethink the demand that Rezaian, and the other journalists’ release be a component to the deal. I cannot in clear conscious reward arbitrary detention as a policy, in the U.S. or abroad.
New York Times – Thomas Erdbrink
The Press Democrat (Sonoma County) – Paul Gullixon
U.S. News and World Report/AP – Deb Reichmann
Washington Post – Carol Morello