During a Wednesday press conference to promote the Iranian nuclear deal he had announced a day earlier, President Barack Obama fielded a question from CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett regarding the four Americans held captive in Iran and why he didn’t seek their release during these negotiations.
Exchange as follows:
GARRETT: Thank you, Mr. President. As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran — three held on trumped-up charges and according to your administration and one whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscious of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans? And last week the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons. It is perceived that that was a last-minute capitulation in these negotiations. Many in the Pentagon feel you’ve left the Joint Chiefs of Staff hung out to dry. Would you comment?
OBAMA: I’ve to give you credit for how you craft those questions. The notion that I’m content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails — Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody is content, and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out. Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates.
Suddenly Iran realizes, you know what? Maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals. Makes it much more difficult for us to walk away if Iran somehow thinks that a nuclear deal is dependent in some fashion on the nuclear deal, and, by the way, if we had walked away from the nuclear deal, we’d still be pushing them just as hard to get these folks out. That’s why those issues are not connected, but we are working every single day to try to get them out and won’t stop until they are out and rejoined with their families.
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