That’s a politician’s answer. Secretary of State John Kerry cannot guarantee that the three Americans that we know about languishing in Iran’s prison system will be released and returned safely to their families. He can only say that he’s “hopeful” Iran will, in a gesture of good faith, set them free.
"There was not a meeting that took place - not one meeting that took place, believe me that's not an exaggeration - where we did not raise the issue of our American citizens being held," he said.
Kerry said he brought it up with Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif just before the two went out to announce the deal. "We remain very, very hopeful that Iran will make the decision to do the right thing and to return those citizens to the United States," Kerry said in the MSNBC interview. "And we are consistently, constantly even now continuing to work on that."
Be that as it may, such assurances are unlikely to console the families missing their loved ones. Frankly, it was telling on Wednesday when, asked by a reporter if the prisoners would soon be released as part of a grand accord, the president deflected the question using faulty logic and instead attacked the messenger. Perfect. At minimum, one would think America's top diplomat — operating under the explicit approval of the president of the United States — could have at least gotten these stranded American citizens out of prison, right? Shouldn't that be a top priority and concern for this administration?
Perhaps there’s still time.
UPDATE: After reading Reuter’s write up of Kerry’s remarks, I came across this letter authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to the secretary of state urging him to get serious about freeing those trapped and imprisoned. Here’s an excerpt (via The Washington Times):
“I am profoundly disappointed that the agreement with Iran did not ensure the unconditional release of American citizens: Jason Rezaian, Pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, as well as any progress in obtaining information about the fate of my constituent former FBI agent Robert Levinson,” wrote Mr. Rubio, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, in a letter dated July 17.
“I am disturbed by how the administration has missed an opportunity to make the freedom of these Americans a priority in your negotiations with Iran,” Mr. Rubio wrote. “Despite your claims that these negotiations were only about Iran’s nuclear program, Iran successfully obtained non-nuclear concessions from these negotiations that will aid its efforts to sow terror and instability throughout the Middle East. These American citizens deserve to be released unconditionally, and I urge you to use every tool at your disposal to secure their freedom.”
Let’s hope he does.