Businessman and real estate mogul Donald Trump told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that he thinks the Iranian government should release imprisoned Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini from custody immediately.
When Breitbart News asked Trump what he would say to Iran directly, he said: “I would say: ‘Release the pastor immediately as a sign of good faith. It would really go a long way to ending tremendous hostilities against you within this country. And it would really open up for a positive dialogue rather than the ridiculous dialogue that’s taken place so far. Release the pastor right now.'”
Trump’s interview with Breitbart News came as he had just wrapped up a meeting with Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini. “She wanted to thank me because it was something that I picked up on a couple of months ago that while they’re negotiating, they should ask for his release,” Trump said of the meeting. “He’s only in jail because he’s Christian. They should ask for his release.”
“I have many millions of followers; I have two and a half million on Twitter and millions on Facebook. I have a lot of people watching, and they’re people like you. They’re the right people,” he continued. “And it got an amazing response. It brought it into the limelight and the unjust thing that’s taking place. So what happened is she came up and wanted to thank me. She came up with two very excellent lawyers.”
When President Barack Obama’s administration, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, negotiated the new nuclear sanctions deal with the Iranian government and other world leaders, U.S. negotiators made no effort whatsoever to press for the release of the imprisoned Abedini. During the negotiations, Abedini was moved to one of the deadliest prisons in the world–at which, according to American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) attorney Jordan Sekulow, he faces an uncertain future. Even so, despite calls from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and from public policy and political leaders throughout the U.S., Kerry and other State Department negotiators made no effort whatsoever to press Iran for his release.
Trump said he told Pastor Abedini’s wife on Tuesday that it is “a shame” the Obama administration left her husband in the Iranian prison and made no effort to fight for his release.
“The Iran deal is a ridiculous deal to start with,” Trump said. “But to end sanctions before the deal is negotiated is just insane. It’s called ‘Negotiation 101’ and they don’t know it. But they could have just for the sake of asking, they could have had him released. They never even asked.”
“If they said, ‘We really feel it would be good for all of us,’ they would have released him,” he claimed. “They absolutely would have released him. But nobody even asked. They didn’t even have the time to ask.”
Trump said “most likely” the reason Obama’s representatives, from Secretary of State John Kerry on down, did not ask for Abedini’s release is “because they’re incompetent.”
“It’s inconceivable,” he added. “There’s nothing to be gained by not asking. It would have been a great sign of good faith from the Iran standpoint. It would have been smart for our people to ask. But they never even asked.”
Trump also said that if Abedini is not released, the U.S. and other world governments should re-impose all the sanctions on Iran. “They should put the sanctions back on if they don’t release him,” Trump said. “They should have never taken them off anyway. The deal was ridiculous without this. But the fact that they didn’t ask is just absolutely ridiculous.”
Trump thinks ordinary Americans across the country can help add pressure on the administration as well. They should “tell their Congressman and tell their senators to get the White House to immediately request it and immediately demand it,” Trump said.
“It’s inconceivable that they couldn’t have said this,” Trump added. “It would’ve taken them seconds to make the request and it would have been granted if properly stated. It would have been a great sign of good faith from Iran, which has ripped us off so badly to start off with in this negotiation.”
“I don’t even call it a negotiation, it’s so one-sided,” he explained. “But this would be a great sign of good will from Iran that they would have done it if properly asked. So that’s what I would say [to the grassroots]: ‘Call your Congressman, call your Senators and demand that the president make the request.'”
Trump added that this issue gets back to how under Obama’s administration, there is an amateurish lack of focus. “We have no foreign policy,” Trump said. “We’re totally disjointed. We don’t know what we’re doing.”
“Look at what’s happening in the world,” he continued. “We lost Syria. Iraq is now a disaster. Afghanistan is dictating to us when they have absolutely no right to. Afghanistan, it’s absolutely insane what’s going on there where you have this man dictating to us like we’re a bunch of babies. They don’t give, they only take.”
“We have no foreign policy,” Trump reiterated. “Our foreign policy is a sham. It’s a joke. And everybody in the world knows it.”
“What we need, what the country needs, is leadership,” Trump said. “And unfortunately we don’t have any leadership. We have people in Washington that all despise each other because there is no leader that can bring them into a room to get things done.”
A spokesman for Trump confirmed to Breitbart News that he will “continue to monitor this situation closely. It’s a priority for him. And he will remain actively engaged in helping secure Pastor Saeed Abedini’s release.”
The spokesman also said Trump frequently requests updates on the matter.
There will be a hearing in the House of Representatives on Thursday on Abedini’s imprisonment, at which Pastor Abedini’s wife will testify, the Christian Post reported.