The family members of two Americans who were released into house arrest in Iran last week as part of a deal aimed at bringing them back home to the United States hit back at criticisms about the prospective agreement.
“First and foremost, we need to bring Americans home and it is never wrong to bring an American home,” Tara Tahbaz told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “CNN News Central” Wednesday.
Tahbaz’s father Morad Tahbaz was one of five wrongfully detained Americans transferred out of prison into house arrest as a first step in the tentative deal which would make $6 billion in Iranian assets that had been in South Korea more accessible for the purchase of non-sanctionable goods. There is also expected to be a prisoner swap component to the deal. US officials have stressed that the indirect negotiations are ongoing and sensitive.
Some Republicans, including Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Jim Risch and presidential candidates Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis, have criticized the transfer of the Iranian assets, with the latter two likening it to a “ransom payment.”
Neda Sharghi, whose brother Emad Shargi was also moved into house arrest, said she did not know the terms of the deal but questioned what else the US was to do but try to reach an agreement to bring home Americans who are wrongfully detained.
“Do you let an innocent American, an innocent American citizen who’s a father, a brother, just die in a foreign prison? Do you do nothing to bring them home?” she asked.
Tahbaz noted that “hostage diplomacy is such a larger issue and a national security issue and it’s not just limited to Iran.”
“I think that is definitely something that we do need to address and put things in place to deter this in the future, but it shouldn’t be at the mercy and the expenses of her brother, my father, all the other American hostages who are currently languishing in these prisons. They need to come home first, and then we need to figure out how we deter this in the future,” she said.
Both Tahbaz and Sharghi stressed their cautious optimism about their loved ones coming home, noting that their nightmare still wasn’t over. However, they were able to speak with their loved ones by video call after their transfers from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
“As I soon as I answer the phone, his face was there and he was just smiling,” she recounted. “I wanted to cry, I wanted to smile, I wanted to laugh, I wanted to reach through the phone and touch him and know he was there.”
“His spirit was so strong fighting to come home but again, this was just one step. He’s not home yet. So I saw the hope in his eyes, but I also saw the fear that you know, anything could go wrong between where he is now til we finally get him home,” Tahbaz said.
Sharghi said when she first saw her brother, Emad, on the phone, she did what she does when she’s nervous: “I do this really awkward giggle and laugh and then it was just sort of silence, processing.”
“He went into typical big brother role asking me how I am, how my kids are, how our parents are and of course his wife and his two daughters,” she said.
They also spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Sharghi described the call as “more of a check-in.”
“I think he probably realized the speculation out there and how much that must have impacted the families. He really wanted to see how we were doing and he wanted to get across that they are very serious about getting our loved ones home and that we just have to be patient because we’re not there yet. They’re not home yet. They’re still wrongfully detained in Iran,” she told Bolduan.
Asked about the case of Shahab Dalili, an American permanent resident who has not been designated as wrongfully detained and is not believed to be included in the deal, Tahbaz said it was “heartbreaking,” but said the White House should speak to the details of the deal.