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senate Bill S. Con. Res. 16

Calling for the Release of U.S. Citizens Imprisoned in Iran

Argument in favor

The U.S. must be assertive in negotiating the release of its citizens when they have been wrongfully detained overseas — passing this resolution would show the intent of the U.S. government to accomplish that.

DonaldTrump's Opinion
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12/17/2015
“If I win the presidency, I guarantee you that those four prisoners are back in our country before I ever take office. I guarantee that.” [breitbart.com]
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05/13/2015
It seems to me that one of the principal missions of a government is to watch out for the welfare and security of its citizens. The US must condition any further normalization with Iran upon the release of our citizens unjustly held by their government. I see nothing wrong in letting them know how we feel. I support this resolution.
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JoeBiden's Opinion
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05/25/2015
"Amir has been imprisoned in Iran on false espionage charges for over 3 years. His family has borne the pain of his absence for too long. Iran must immediately release Amir so he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible."
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Argument opposed

It seems unlikely that Iran will release these prisoners simply because Congress passed a resolution. They are going to play hardball, look for other concessions, and using prisoners in the nuclear talks could kill negotiations.

Noah's Opinion
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05/13/2015
Let's not kill nuclear negotiations under the guise of patriotism
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Nicholas's Opinion
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06/04/2015
Making this a larger political issue won't help the situation. Getting these people out will require back channels, or special ops... This is just for grandstanding by some politicians who want to derail nuclear negotiations.
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zaphod6's Opinion
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06/05/2015
Absolutely not. If you're dumb enough to have found yourself in Iran, you deserve a long term prison sentence. Hello? It's fucking Iran
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concurrent resolution Progress


  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Foreign Affairs
      Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism
  • The senate Passed May 11th, 2015
    Roll Call Vote 90 Yea / 0 Nay
    IntroducedMay 7th, 2015

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What is Senate Bill S. Con. Res. 16?

Update January 16, 2016: Iran released three of the American prisoners listed here as part of a prisoner exchange involving seven Iranians who were held for sanctions violations. Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian were released along with one other American.
This concurrent resolution outlines U.S. policy regarding American citizens being held as prisoners in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It calls for Iran to immediately release three U.S. citizens that are being held as prisoners, and cooperate with the U.S. in locating and returning Robert Levinson who is presumed to be a fourth prisoner. Further, it states that the U.S. should undertake every effort using every diplomatic tool at its disposal to secure their immediate release. Among U.S. citizens being held as prisoners in Iran are:

  • Saeed Abedini of Idaho, who has been detained in Iran since 2012 on charges related to his work and beliefs as a Christian pastor.

  • Amir Hekmati of Michigan, a former U.S. Marine who was detained in 2011 while visiting his Iranian relatives and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.

  • Jason Rezaian of California, who is a Washington Post journalist that was granted credentials by the Iranian government. He was detained in 2014 and has been held without trial.

  • Robert Levinson of Florida, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official who disappeared in Iran in 2007 and is presumed to be a prisoner. He is the longest held U.S. citizen overseas in American history.

As a concurrent resolution, this bill (even if it passes both chambers) does not have the same powers as a law. These measures are non-binding, don't require presidential approval, and are generally used to formally recognize something. 

Impact

U.S. citizens who are held as prisoners or are missing in Iran, diplomatic relations with Iran, Congress, and the bodies of government that are motivated to action by what Congress does.

Cost of Senate Bill S. Con. Res. 16

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: It has been suggested that the Obama administration should be discussing the release of these prisoners in their negotiations with Iran over the country’s nuclear program, and that doing so would be an opportunity for Iran to show good faith.

While the administration has said that while it regularly brings up the status of the prisoners in negotiations, it hasn’t ruled out a nuclear agreement that doesn’t ensure their freedom. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said: 

“these two priorities have been raised on two separate tracks, but they are priorities nonetheless.”


Of Note: There have been numerous examples of prisoners in Iran being denied personal visits by family members and basic necessities — despite Iran being a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Amnesty International called for an investigation after political prisoners and prisoners of conscience at the Evin prison in Iran were subjected to assaults and beatings, then denied medical care in April 2014.

The treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran have been criticized both inside the country and externally by international organizations, as have the treatment of women and homosexuals. Baha’i, Jews, and Darvish are among the religious groups that have suffered persecution in Iran, and ethnic minorities including Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchs, and Afghans have also suffered from discriminatory treatment.


Media:


Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Örlygur Hnefill)

Official Title

A concurrent resolution stating the policy of the United States regarding the release of United States citizens in Iran.

    “If I win the presidency, I guarantee you that those four prisoners are back in our country before I ever take office. I guarantee that.” [breitbart.com]
    Like (69)
    Follow
    Share
    Let's not kill nuclear negotiations under the guise of patriotism
    Like (19)
    Follow
    Share
    Making this a larger political issue won't help the situation. Getting these people out will require back channels, or special ops... This is just for grandstanding by some politicians who want to derail nuclear negotiations.
    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
    It seems to me that one of the principal missions of a government is to watch out for the welfare and security of its citizens. The US must condition any further normalization with Iran upon the release of our citizens unjustly held by their government. I see nothing wrong in letting them know how we feel. I support this resolution.
    Like (8)
    Follow
    Share
    "Amir has been imprisoned in Iran on false espionage charges for over 3 years. His family has borne the pain of his absence for too long. Iran must immediately release Amir so he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible."
    Like (6)
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    All current/future negotiations with Iran should hinge on their attitude to recognize and abide by elements of Human Rights.
    Like (4)
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    Don't negotiate. Go there and take them by force and anyone stupid enough to get in the way slaughter them. Then while they are distracted with the prison rescue assassinate their terrorist president.
    Like (3)
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    Our fellows Americans need to be back home with their friends and families.
    Like (3)
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    Our government has a duty to ensure that American citizens aren't forced to endure punishment at the hands of another nation, especially if they're innocent.
    Like (3)
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    Absolutely not. If you're dumb enough to have found yourself in Iran, you deserve a long term prison sentence. Hello? It's fucking Iran
    Like (3)
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    No soldier left behind? Or are they bargaining chips?
    Like (3)
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    We are a Democratic Republic, we need a consensus backing our foreign policy. This is a good start in further diplomatic relations.
    Like (2)
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    We have responsibility to protect our citizens not use them as a bargaining chip.
    Like (2)
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    The nuclear deal was a complete loss for the U.S. and its allies in the region! Why does Iran, a state-sponsor of terrorism no less, get all the say? As a nation, we do not negotiate with terrorists. It's our way or they can continue to have sanctions. I'm all for this.
    Like (2)
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    Should be a no brainer. Should have been the first thing out of the Secretary of States mouth as a pre-requisite for any favorable negotiations.
    Like (2)
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    Stop negotiating and working with oppressive regimes. Not only Iran but also Saudi Arabia. Hypocrites
    Like (2)
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    The safety of American citizens should always be the first priority. The initial purpose of government, after all, is to protect the people.
    Like (2)
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    These people need to be released to see their families. I don't care how it is done. It needs to be done. Thank you.
    Like (2)
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    The United States needs to let Iran and the rest of the world know not to mess with us. We meet to assert our (former) world dominance and also work to bring our fellow Americans out of harms way. We can't just leave them trapped their without any effort to rescue them.
    Like (1)
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    this bill may have no effect on the behavior any US or Iranian citizen or any government anywhere in the world. It is however a pointed statement about the priorities of the government of the United States of America and as such has value
    Like (1)
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