National Security Council spokesman John Kirby Tuesday insisted the Biden administration’s $6 billion agreement to free five U.S. hostages from Iran does not mean the United States will “turn a blind eye to anything Iran is doing in the region.”
However, he told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos it’s “difficult to say” if the agreement adds to the danger that more hostages could be taken in the future.
“The regime in Tehran has been taking foreign hostages for 40-some years,” Kirby said. “This is a tactic they’ve used in the past. This is difficult to say what this will mean for the future, except to say we’re going to continue to put pressure on the Iranian regime.
“We’re not going to turn a blind eye to the potential for additional hostage-taking.”
Kirby also pointed out that the State Department has a new designation for Iran, and is warning Americans of the dangers of going there.
“Obviously, we strongly urge Americans not to go to Iran potentially if you are a dual national,” he said. “We aren’t turning a blind eye to anything Iran is doing in the region.”
A plane carrying the five American hostages landed in the United States Tuesday, one day after they were swapped for the release of five Iranians held in the U.S. and an agreement to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian funds that had been held.
The funds had been blocked in South Korea, and were wired Monday through Switzerland to banks in Doha.
Kirby said Monday the Americans will stay at a Virginia military facility for some time, and will be reunited with their families “very soon.”
One of the hostages has been dealing with cancer, while another had reportedly been beaten, Stephanopoulos noted.
“They were in Avon prison, one of the most abdominal places to be treated very, very badly by the Iranians,” said Kirby. “Initial reports we have is they are in relatively good health, but we want to make sure they get all the care they need. They’ll have access to that care for as long as they need it.”
Meanwhile, he said it’s “difficult to know” why Iran agreed to the deal at this point.
“This was months in the making,” Kirby said. “I would be careful to peg this to some date on the calendar or some recent event … it all came together here just this month.”
The deal should not be taken as a sign that U.S.-Iranian relations will change in any significant way, he added.
“This was about getting our Americans home,” he said. “It was not about trying to https://www.newsmax.com/politics/john-kirby-iran-hostages/2023/09/19/id/1135065 it to the nuclear deal or other behavior by Iran. Last Friday we designated some additional Iran entities for the way they treat their protesters. Yesterday we designated more entities. We had boosted our military presence in the Gulf region.
“We’re still working to stymie the Iranian behavior in the Gulf and beyond.”
Kirby also on Tuesday discussed Americans Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, who remain in captivity in Russia.
“We’re still working very hard to get him released as well as Paul Whelan, who has been in jail for many, many years in Russia,” said Kirby. “Unfortunately, I wish I had good news on this front, but I don’t.
“Both of these gentlemen are wrongfully detained. Both are being charged with espionage, which is a ridiculous charge. But it is indicative of how, where the Russians put them, in terms of detainees. So we’re going to keep working on this.”
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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