Donald Trump says the Obama administration has failed miserably in not securing the release of American Pastor Saeed Abedini from the Iranian prison system in which he’s been held for the past 15 months after being arrested because of his Christian faith.
Trump met with Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, at Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday and pledged to raise awareness and support for her husband’s release.
Speaking with TheBlaze after the meeting concluded, he decried the Obama administration for failing to secure Abedini’s release and said that U.S. officials fail to comprehend the basics of the negotiation process.
“This is negotiation 101,” Trump said. “This would have been so simple. All you had to do is, before they even started (negotiations with Iran) say, ‘Do us both a favor. Allow the Christian pastor out of jail.’”
The real estate mogul and businessman called the agreement reached last month between Iran and the international community, in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear development in return for limited easing of sanctions, “the stupidest deal I’ve ever seen.”
Trump said no sanctions should have been lifted without a solid commitment from Iran.
“There is no deal and what they’ve done is released the sanctions,” he said. “Either these are the dumbest people in the history of politics or there’s something else going on that nobody knows about.”
Trump said that it will be more difficult now to secure Abedini’s release than it would have been at the beginning of the negotiating process. He said securing Abedini’s freedom should have been a definitive part of the most recent deliberations.
“They would have had it. It would have been done,” he said. “They never even asked. They never even brought it up.”
It is unclear whether the U.S. has covertly advocated on Abedini’s behalf. Secretary of State John Kerry referred to the “quiet diplomacy” he believes is best in helping secure the release of American prisoners in countries like Iran, though he did not mention Abedini by name.
Trump said that he invited Naghmeh Abedini to meet with him after her husband’s plight caught his attention.
“It’s inconceivable that people can be this stupid — and I looked at it and, for some reason — I’m Christian — and, for some reason, it caught my attention,” he said. “I just feel like a cause like this is very important. I think it’s horrible.”
Trump, a frequent Obama critic and host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” said the U.S.’ position in the world has sharply declined.
“Our country is being run down into the tubes. We are a laughingstock throughout the world,” he said. “Think of the power that this country once had — and now we can’t even get a Christian pastor out of a jail.”
Trump said he intends to continue speaking about Abedini’s plight until he is released.
Following the meeting, Naghmeh Abedini issued a statement through the American Center for Law and Justice, the legal firm handling her case and advocating her husband’s cause, offering “heartfelt gratitude” to Trump for his support.
“I am most thankful that of the many issues that Mr. Trump could engage he has chosen to speak out about the unjust imprisonment of my husband by the Iranian government,” she said. “This reveals to me the heart of Mr. Trump and his commitment to religious freedom.”
TheBlaze has highlighted Abedini’s plight over the past year, including barbaric treatment and horrific abuse he has reportedly received as a result of his Christian faith.
Naghmeh Abedini will join American Center for Law and Justice attorney Jordan Sekulow in testifying before Congress on Thursday about her husband’s ongoing fight for freedom.
The two will speak at a joint subcommittee hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.