The debate over the Iranian nuclear deal began Tuesday in Congress. The Senate voted down a measure that would have rendered the deal an international treaty. The measure failed with a vote of 57-39 but had it passed, Congress would have had to review each amendment to the Iran Nuclear Act in the future. The fact that 39 Republicans voted for the measure may be indicative of a heated debate to come. However, some are concerned with other issues in Iran such as the boarding of a cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, which also happened on Tuesday prior to the Senate debate, and the imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
While the debate over the Iranian nuclear deal began on Tuesday in Congress, Iran’s equivalent of a Coast Guard, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fired shots over the bow of the cargo ship Maersk Tigris. It was suspected that Americans were on board. This is perhaps because the crew that numbered in the low thirties radioed for U.S. support after being fired upon. There was a U.S. destroyer within 60 miles of the incident and they responded promptly. The U.S. also sent a plane for support. The reason for the eventual boarding of the ship has remained undetermined.
On April 20, Iran’s Revolutionary Court allowed imprisoned journalist Jason Rezaian to consult with an attorney for the first time since being detained last July 22. Rezaian’s attorney explained to the press that her client is being charged with four serious crimes including espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.” She also wanted to emphasis to Iranian authorities that her client never had any access to any classified information.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest has noted that there has not been notification from the Iranian government pertaining to the allegations against Resaian. He went on to say that, “[i]f the reports are true, these charges are absurd, should be immediately dismissed and Jason should be freed immediately, so that he can return home to his family.” When asked about whether the U.S. could use the release of Rezaian as a condition in the current nuclear deal, Earnest said that Iran’s path to nuclear power is a very complicated one and that including the release of Rezaian or other U.S. citizens release, would not be part of the deal.
Jason Rezaian was Tehran’s Washington Post bureau chief and is now being held in the Tehran’s Evin Prison. He and is wife were arrested last April and both were placed into solitary confinement. After 72 days Rezaian’s wife was released on bail and allowed to go home. There have been reports that Rezaian has experienced significant weight loss and suffered numerous infections. Gholam Hossein Esmaili, former chief of Evin Prison and head of Tehran’s province’s justice department, has explained to reporters that “[a] Revolutionary Court branch reviewing the case is dealing with many other cases, and will deal with this case when its turn comes.”
The Iran nuclear deal debate has begun in Congress but as White House press secretary Josh Earnest has communicated, many are “concerned about Iran’s behavior.” In coming weeks maybe a reason for the boarding of Maersk Tigris will be released and more will be learned about the charges and sentencing of Jason Rezaian.
By Joel Wickwire
Photo by LASZLO ILYES’s Flickr Page – Creativecommons Creative Commons Flickr License
Photo by JoshBerglund19’s Flickr Page – Creativecommons Creative Commons Flickr License