Sunday, January 17, 2016 10:02 pm
Three Iranian-Americans left Tehran for a U.S. base in Germany on Sunday under a prisoner swap following the lifting of most international sanctions on Iran under a deal that President Barack Obama said had cut off Tehran’s path to a nuclear bomb.
In a sign of sustained readiness to track Iranian compliance with remaining United Nations curbs, the United States imposed fresh sanctions on 11 companies and individuals for supplying Iran’s ballistic missile programme.
The Obama administration had delayed the step for more than two weeks during tense negotiations to free five American prisoners, according to people familiar with the matter. Iran conducted a precision-guided ballistic missile test last October, violating a U.N. ban.
“This is a good day because once again we are seeing what’s possible through strong American diplomacy,” Obama said at the White House. “These things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hailed the nuclear deal as a “golden page” in Iran’s history and said the agreement could be used as a model to resolve other regional issues.
The lifting of sanctions and the prisoner deal considerably reduce the hostility between Tehran and Washington that has shaped the Middle East since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.
A Swiss plane took Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho and Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Michigan, as well as some family members from Tehran to Geneva, Switzerland.
They landed around 1700 GMT (2 p.m. ET), and a Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters they had left for a U.S. military base in Germany shortly afterwards.
One more Iranian-American released under the same swap, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, was not aboard the aircraft. A fifth prisoner, American student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately on Saturday, a U.S. official said.
“We can confirm that our detained U.S. citizens have been released and that those who wished to depart Iran have left,” a senior U.S. administration official said.
Several Iranian-Americans held in U.S. prisons after being charged or convicted for sanctions violations have also been released, their lawyers told Reuters on Sunday.