On Tuesday, at an emotional hearing on Capitol Hill, the family members of three Americans who are being held hostage in Iran and one who disappeared there urged the US to pressure Iran to release their loved ones. The Americans imprisoned in Iran include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former US Marine Amir Hekmati, and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, who was arrested for organizing gatherings to study the Bible. Additionally, Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, disappeared in Iran 8 years ago, though Iranian officials deny knowing anything about his whereabouts. Bob Levinson’s son said, “We implore negotiators to take a more aggressive approach than merely asking for Iran’s help in locating him.”
Lawmakers expressed their solidarity with the families and their struggles. The chairman of the committee, Ed Royce (R-CA), stated that these cases “call into question the integrity of diplomacy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program… If top Iranian officials cannot be counted on to assist these wrongfully jailed Americans, can they be counted on to honor the commitments they make at the negotiating table?” A Washington Post editorial similarly argued that Iran’s treatment of Rezaian “suggests that the government of President Hassan Rouhani cannot be counted on to deliver on its international commitments — including the prospective nuclear accord.”
Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) stated that it would be “ludicrous and outrageous for us to have a deal with Iran that doesn’t include the bringing home of our hostages.” Engel also pointed out that Iran’s refusal to recognize dual citizenship, only Iranian citizenship, “runs roughshod over long, established international law.”
Following the hearing, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passed a resolution urging Iran to “immediately release the 3 U.S. citizens it holds, as well as provide all known information on any U.S. citizens that have disappeared within its borders.” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), who authored the resolution, clarified that the “freedom of these innocent Americans should not be exchanged for any concession regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities.”
Charges of cooperation between Syria and ISIS are not new. Reports last year in Britishand Lebanese media charged that Assad had longstanding ties to ISIS and its predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq. There is also evidence that Iran supports ISIS.
Former U.S. Army intelligence officer Michael Pregent has observed that “Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.” (via TheTower.org)
Light statues, sculptures and colorful exhibits draw 250,000 to Old City outdoor event. Jerusalem’s Old City lights up every June with a spectacular exhibition of light. The Festival of Light, now in its seventh year, is now underway and expects 250,000 people to take part in the illuminating night-time event. This year’s lineup includes 10 international artists displaying jaw-dropping artistic light sculptures and installations.
The Old City walls serve as one of the world’s most unique palettes for the dramatic light art during the event. The local happening is a partner of light festivals the world over. There will also be light statues, illumination of architecture and interactive music and video presentations. (via Israel21c)